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Craft of Kin: review by Jerry Rockwell

The Gallier Brothers
Craft of Kin is a great new recording by Les and Gary Gallier, featuring their innovative mountain dulcimer playing.  I was immediately taken by the stately, elegant “chamber ensemble” sound of many of the selections, which feature the fine violin and cello playing (and arranging) of David Wilson.  Gary’s trademark dulcimer flatpicking style is in evidence thoughout, as is Les’s fine melodic fingerpicking.

Craft of Kin is made up of 100% Gallier originals, and these tunes manage to touch upon a remarkable variety of genres, textures, and styles.  There are VERY few dulcimer recordings, if any, that rely solely on original material, and virtually none that have woven together so artfully the sound of the plucked dulcimer with the bowed string instruments.  Gary and Les have a powerful and highly original vision of where the dulcimer can go, and they take us there straight away with this delightful set of instrumentals.

Gary is a “flatpicker” in the most classic sense of the term–to my mind there is no one playing the dulcimer today who can even approach the subtlety and finesse of his flatpicking.  This breathtaking style maybe heard on Merlin’s Hornpipe and Highland Rail, which also includes a fabulous rhythmic harmonica track (as well as a snare drum part) played by Les.   Sounding almost like fingerpicking, Gary demonstrates a delicate crosspicking style as well on The Seekers Waltz (which also has a really tasty “crystalline” hammered dulcimer part by Princess Harris).   The Great River Road is an extremely intricate 6/8 or “jig-time” composition of Gary’s.   It is not particularly Irish or Celtic in melodic structure, which is refreshingly different, and it takes you VERY quickly to some surprising and unexpected places.  Please fasten your seat belts for this one !

Les has a wonderful and extremely unique style of fingerpicking which is as melodic as it is rhythmic and syncopated.  He plays lead dulcimer on the tunes that he wrote and they seem to have more of the “chamber ensemble” sound with Dave Wilson’s great string playing.   These include: Dance of the Silhouettes, Downsteam, and Upstream.   Wish for a Wish finds Les at his best with the melodic fingerpicking, where as Happy Habanero finds him playing solidly in a percussive groove.  As a matter of fact, this tune is a virtual festival of percussion, with seed pods, bongos, udu, and many other percussion toys played with  real precision.   Hidden Doors is another by Les which features a mesmerizing use of drone, along with an insistent, driving rhythm.   The interplay between Gary’s single-string flatpicking and Les’s chordal, melodic fingerpicking works particularly well on the tunes where both are playing dulcimer — the whole  is greater than the sum of the parts.

All told, this is a potent collection of original material for the dulcimer.  Gary and Les have made a significant contribution to the art of the Mountain Dulcimer, and Craft of Kin should inspire us well into the future.

6 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Just today discovered their music.
    Would like to buy the CD. Please advise where to purchase it.

  2. Thanks Jerry, I’m not as good at getting my music distributed as I should be. That will change when I get the new CD we are working on out. For now, you can order directly from me per the “ordering” page listed on the right. It is also available through iTunes or Rhapsody as a download.

  3. I am trying this site to see if this message gets through?? sorry if you receive more than one from me!! :)

    Hello, Gary!

    I have to say, your “Craft of Kin” CD, that I bought a couple of years ago at the McSpadden Dulcimer Shoppe in Mtn View, Ark, is one of my very favorite dulcimer CD’s–and I have a bunch. I, too, am a MD player–I have two McSpadden’s and a baritone made for me by ArtFolk in Branson. I just got on your website this morning to see if perhaps! you might have “Great River Road” tabbed out for download. I am probably an intermediate player, been playing 5 years, but this song moves so fast, I haven’t even tried to get it down on paper. Some songs I can do that–play them over and over until I get the notes down and then we play it. So fun! I am a member of a four woman dulcimer group, “The Harmony Dulcimer Players”. We are small potatoes, but we love to play and with two of us, the dulcimer is a real passion. We play out about 30 to 35 programs a year and have played twice at our Iowa State Fair. A real deal for us, let me tell you!

    Gary, I love your work; you are a true artist and in my opinion, nothing short of a genius when it comes to dulcimer playing and writing your own compositions. I have about worn out this CD–(which is a great one to put on if you have to clean the house!! ha!) Also, I recently bought a bodhran and love to play along with you on Great River Road. Fabulous!!

    Sooo, I have ran off some of the music you so kindly have provided on your website–and appreciate the scales, etc, maybe I can learn a few things. I can play half way good if I keep practicing–otherwise the old fingers don’t do as well.

    So this is too long, and I apologize, but if sometime you do the Great River Road in pdf, I would so love to try it–!!!

    I think you live in Springfield, MO?, and have tried to find where I could at least look at one of your dulcimers, but no luck yet. We are in Sully, Iowa, so about 6-7 hrs or so from Springfield.

    Thanks a bunch and keep playing and composing!

  4. Thanks for the kind words Sheryl, sorry, I don’t have Great River Road tabbed. I have enough trouble playing it much less figuring out the tab :)
    For what it’s worth, the dulcimer is capo at fret 1.

  5. Gary,
    Your On the Wing album did it again….you probably don’t remember my comment on it when I first purchased in at Kentucky Music Weekend (by the way, wish you would come back!) several years ago. I listened to it while reading a fictional account of Merlin the Magician and forever associate it with that work. Now, I took it with me on a driving trip through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. It works well as a backdrop to the beauty that is those old mountains. Again, a spiritual work…

  6. Hi Marge…of course I remember !! You are responsible for my title “Merlin’s Hornpipe” that is on the Craft of Kin CD. So nice to hear you are still enjoying the music. Thanks,

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