As the Crow Flies – 2013 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Childsplay

Childsplay, which has been making music for 26 years, the creation of violin maker and artist Bob Childs, and the golden strand that ties it all together is every violin (13 of them) and the viola were made by him. The orchestra also includes cellos, whistles and a banjo, bass, flute, bouzouki, harp, guitar and piano plus a vocalist and a step-dancer. You may wonder what kind of music these string-playing cats makes, but that's hard to pin down. This CD holds polkas, jigs and reels, Irish and Celtic songs and a waltz. If a genre must be named, folk music comes closest.

The uninitiated may shy away because this sounds like a mismatched potpourri of sounds, but the strings, especially the violins, hold it all together. If you imagine a taut wire representing style, each cut may dance around the wire in different directions, but none simply break free; this is music to enjoy, not define.

Lissa Schneckenburger doubles as fiddler and vocalist and her vocals on The Dear Companion immediately bring to mind a folk or old time ballad, but you've never heard backing like this at any folk festival. She has a beautiful voice that well adapts to folk music while the musicians carry the melody and expand it to farther reaches of sound. The opening bars of Bow for Rama sound like the intro to a Jim Croce song, then the whistles and flute take the forefront and transform it to a folk melody which morphs to a jig in mid-medley and then to a fast-paced Christmas Eve.

From the soothing 3/4 time of The Last Alleluia, a number that touches you like Ashokan Farewell has touched so many people, to the frailing banjo kickoff in Uncle Dave Macon's Don't Get Weary Children to the ballad Starry Lullaby, this is a CD you would have to work at not liking. Just slip it into the CD player, close your eyes and lose your cares for awhile.