Album Review - Childsplay / As the Crow Flies

New England fiddle super-group Childsplay always needs a bit of an explanation. Not musically, but conceptually: the group is formed of stringed instrumentalists who are all playing instruments made by renowned violinmaker Bob Childs, hence the name Childsplay. It’s a lovely idea uniting "family members," so to speak, from the same instrument maker, and an idea most often used in classical music. And it’s a great excuse to get together some of the best artists in the New England folk scene. Check out the list of fiddle players here: Hanneke Cassel, Lissa Schneckenburger, Sam Amidon, Katie McNally, Naomi Morse, and more! Aside from the fiddle, Childsplay also brings on a stellar cast of instrumentalists: Shannon Heaton on flute/whistle, Mark Roberts on the same but also banjo, stepdancer Nic Gareiss, guiarist/pianist Keith Murphy, and cellist Ariel Friedman. The album was produced by the famed Irish fiddler Liz Carroll.

It’s a folk spectacular to be sure, but the joy of the album is in the variety. The tunes come from all over the spectrum, both composed and traditional. “Katrina,” written by Schneckenburger is an especially beautiful instrumental, arranged by Cassell into swells of strings, almost like a stormy New England sea. Other sets might feature a Scottish strathspey alongside an Irish jig and polka, or a couple of old-time tunes. The singing is handled by Lissa Schneckenburger and again she proves to be one of the best traditional singers in New England. That’s a big claim, I know, but her clear, pure vocals and her sweet thoughtfulness in constructing the song’s phrasing make her one of the very best. The title track, “The Hawk and Crow,” and “ The Dear Companion,” both traditional songs, show off Schneckenburger’s mastery of Irish and New England song, and stand out as two of the best tracks on the album. She draws forth so much emotion from these songs, without losing the traditional roots of the singing.

Childsplay’s new album, As the Crow Flies, is a much-needed moment for New England’s hardcore trad scene, a celebration not just of the fiddle maker that’s brought them together, but a moment for everyone to delve into the music they love so much.

Childsplay. As the Crow Flies.
2013. Childsplay Records.

Childsplay: The Hawk and Crow / As the Crow Flies



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