Composed of four veteran musicians with distinctly differing backgrounds and a shared passion for hard-driving old time music, Troublesome Creek String Band is an exciting ensemble whose continuing delight in traditional forms is very palpable on their debut.
While at first they may sound like a relatively orthodox take on the old time stringband tradition, closer listening reveals Troublesome Creek to be blessed with both a solid foundation in classic values of traditional music and their own unique abilities and personalities. At the forefront are the duo vocals of guitarist Dick Harrington and bassist Lorie Lichtenwalner. In a genre marked by (if not defined by) a certain vocal shakiness, their blend is thrillingly precise. They handle closer, brother-duo style harmony of songs like "Midnight on the Stormy Deep" and the more open, modal sounds of "Adieu False Heart" with equal aplomb.
Fiddler Rick Martin and banjoist Steve Arkin provide forward momentum and texture with sensitivity and intensity. Arkin, a former bluegrass banjo player, pulls out his finger picks and, in decidedly un-old time fashion, adds some Scruggs-style picking to "River of Jordan" and "The Ballad of Cole Younger." The combination works so well that one wonders why more old time bands don't do it. The variety and depth demonstrated here make Troublesome Creek a welcome addition to the flourishing old time scene. The only undermining factor is the length of the record which, at over 70 minutes, somewhat dilutes the band's ingenuity and skill.