Review: Byron Berline – Early in the Morning “Old Time”

Byron Berline’s second disc of his 3-CD set from 2020, Early in the Morning, introduces 22 original “Old Time” tunes by his pen, or in this case, his bow. Starting off with a beautiful, nostalgic, solo cross-tuned fiddle song called “First Thing in the Morning,” Berline dedicates this selection to the memory of waking up hearing his father playing the fiddle. To those who are familiar with traditional old-time music, the subsequent tracks develop down an unconventional path with the addition of drums, piano, bluegrass banjo and a healthy dose of spoons. Berline keeps listeners on their toes with a wide variety of arrangements, instrumentation, and styles of tunes.

One of my favorites was a cross-tuned modal fiddle and banjo duet entitled, “Plain and Simple,” featuring Jonathon Hunt on the banjo. “Chicken and the Cat” certainly evokes lively images of these two animals in the sounds of the fiddle, and “Extra Special” and “Irish Wind” both have a Celtic flavor. There is a strong marching beat from the drums on “Toy Soldier” and a fun D modal vamp to kick off “Silly Grizzly.” From waltzes to hornpipes, and even an “Old South saloon sounding tune,” (Sharecropper), this collection is sure to inspire and entertain fans of Berline’s creative and playful style.

“Plain and Simple”

“Chicken and the Cat”

“Southern Belle Waltz” – (Editor’s Pick)

Natalya Weinstein

Natalya Zoe Weinstein is a fiddler and singer with the Asheville, NC-based band, Zoe & Cloyd, with her husband and music partner, John Cloyd Miller. She is also an instructor in the traditional music program at Warren Wilson College and a fiddle teacher at the Academy for the Arts in Asheville. Natalya holds an MA in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University, where her thesis was entitled, “Jim Shumate and the Development of Bluegrass Fiddling.”

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