Ken Perlman has dared to go where no man or woman has ever gone before.
The Boston-based musician/teacher/ethnomusicologist has taken tunes he has collected from P.E.I. fiddlers and arranged them for another stringed instrument.
And, after polishing each one to his liking, he’s put them together in sets and has just released a recording of them.
“It’s pretty safe to say that most of these tunes have never before been successfully played on a five-string banjo,” says Perlman of the new album, “Frails and Frolics: Fiddle tunes from Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Elsewhere”.
The 17-track CD includes locally-inspired tunes like Hector’s Fancy, Where the North River Flows, Souris Breakwater, Emil Gaudet’s Reel, Jack Webster’s Reel and the Prince Edward Island Wedding Reel.
The album is a tribute to the fiddlers he encountered when he visited P.E.I. in the 1990s to document their lives and their music.
“My experience meeting them, recording them and learning to play their music changed my life. It became my adopted music,” says Perlman, during a telephone interview.
The project was inspired by his desire to play along with the fiddlers.
“I would have my banjo and I would get to play with the fiddlers. And, some of them didn’t have an accompanist so I would play along. And I just absolutely loved the music.
At times, it was more than that.
“It was the atmosphere in the fiddlers’ homes, so I became inspired to write the music down and learn it. I used the experience of playing other types of fiddle music to develop settings on the banjo and transcribe it.”
Even today, he has fond memories of those sessions.
“There were certain P.E.I. fiddlers who influenced me. And, as I play their tunes I hear them in my ear,” says Perlman who had planned to visit P.E.I. this spring until a leg issue made it necessary to postpone his trip.
But, he reassures me he’ll be making a return trip.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back there.”
Need to know
- Copies of “Frails & Frolics: Fiddle tunes from Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Elsewhere” are available from CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.
- For information about Ken Perlman’s music, go to http://kenperlman.com.
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Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.