Crazy Quilt

Cathy Barton and Dave Para

Walnut Valley Occasional, December, 1998

Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Crazy Quilt, (CD, 18 selections)

The newest offering by Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Crazy Quilt, is aptly titled. This is a collection of folk music as varied as a grandma's crazy quilt, and every bit as stunning in its design and colors. Along with the traditional selections, Cathy and Dave have proved once again their amazing ability to find and preserve "new" folk music.

But even the traditional selections are "finds" in a way, at least as presented by this folk music duo. In addition to their skills in performing, they are also very talented in their blending other musicians' talent to this quilt.

Cathy and Dave have a well-earned reputation for instrumental excellence. This album has its share of instrumental brilliance. Traditional fiddle breakdowns, known to fiddlers as No. 159 and 158 in R.P. Christeson's The Old Time Fiddler's Repertory are helpfully re-titled with "Levee Breakdown/Jefferson City Hornpipe." It's toe-tapping excellence performed by Cathy on hammered dulcimer, Dave on guitar, Jim Lansford on fiddle and Kim Lansford on piano. Another instrumental from the Old Time Fiddler's Repertory is "Port One-Step," with its intriguing change of pace. The oddly titled but marvelously performed "Spider Bit the Baby" features Cathy's remarkable frailed banjo. "Granite Lake," written by Don Pettigrew, is particularly delightful as Cathy's hammered dulcimer teamed with Ed Trickett also on hammered dulcimer present a musical tribute to the serenity of a small sparkling lake in northern Ontario.

Crazy Quilt has other highlights, too, such as with the ballads of the burning and sinking of one of the largest steamboats on the Mississippi, the "Bayou Sara," and a gentle-hearted Mormon song sweetly accompanied by Cathy on mountain dulcimer.

"Call down" is performed acappala by Cathy, Dave and Ed Trickett. The song, written by Chicago folk musician Margaret Nelson, has a centuries-old feel especially as performed by these three. It's a marvelous combination that helps spark the magic of this album several times. One of the best examples of their vocal harmonies is in "Bramble and the Rose," but you can't overlook "Handful of Songs" as one of the best songs on the album.

Adding to the crazy quilt mosaic is a poem by John B. Neihardt, the famed author of Black Elk Speaks, titled "Easter." Set to music by Columbia musician Ken Shepherd, the poem has a striking message. Dave gives it even more pizzazz with his performance on the didgeridoo.

Other cultural flavors include "Alte Steirer," a tune Cathy and Dave picked up while traveling in Germany and Austria.

Crazy Quilt will tickle any true music lover's interest. It is a delight, and an accurate representation of the outstanding music we've come to expect from Cathy and Dave.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: