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Beautiful and relaxing, but a bit too much for me
Written: Aug 13, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Relaxing, high recording quality
Cons:Pieces tend to blend together with inadequate variety
The Bottom Line: This is good listening for times when you want to relax, but listening to the album from beginning to end might be too relaxing. Good for driving or winding down.
This is a collection of instrumental pieces using the standard and baritone versions of the mountain dulcimer. The artist is Nina Zanetti. The total runtime is 66:38. As a quick scan of the track listings will tell you, this is a mixture of Christian pieces and Gaelic pieces.
Before listening to this CD, I was unfamiliar with the mountain dulcimer. It looks rather like an elongated violin, as it is longer but narrower, by proportion. It is a wooden, stringed instrument that is in the zither family and has frets. It is native to Appalachia, and first showed up in the 19th century amongst people of Scots-Irish ancestry living in Appalachia, according to Wikipedia. It is played by laying the instrument flat in your lap, using your left hand on the frets and the right hand to strum or pluck the strings, of which there can be anywhere from two to twelve. The strings can be as short as twenty-five inches or as long as thirty inches.
The paper cover of the album can be extracted from the case and it opens up with a list of the pieces and a commentary on each. Before this CD arrived, I decided to check out the sound of the instrument on YouTube; that was a very disappointing excursion, in some ways. I did find a large number of videos of people playing the mountain dulcimer, across a wide range of ages. However, many of these videos were far more than one step from professional, and sounded like practice sessions. I even found several by Nina Zanetti, but they were of her playing at home and were definitely not studio quality.
This CD is definitely professional and of studio quality. The mountain dulcimer produces a very mellow, almost liquid sound, although you can definitely tell that it is an instrument that is strummed. It is lower in tone, in general, than a violin and reminded me more of the sound of a viola in pitch and range.
I found this CD very relaxing, and can see people enjoying it in the evening, just before bed, or when having to contend with traffic. As I knew only a few of the tracks (1, 4, and 11) before listening to Ms. Zanetti play them, it is hard for me to say how faithful the renditions were. For the ones I knew, however, they were definitely recognizable. While I like bagpipes most for Amazing Grace, the mountain dulcimer can give a very soft, mellow version.
1. Abide With Me (2:27)
2. Bonnie Doon (3:08)
3. Simple Gifts Medley (5:54)
4. Deep River/Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (3:46)
5. Shape Note Tune Medley (3:15)
6. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (2:50)
7. Bridget Cruise, 3rd Air/Sheebeg and Sheemore (4:41)
8. The Mermaid's Song (3:39)
9. Mary Had A Baby (2:51)
10. Rock-a My Soul (2:31)
11. Amazing Grace (3:09)
12. Squire Wood's Lamentation/Eleanor Plunkett (4:28)
13. I Will Arise/The Traveler (2:39)
14. The King of Love/Be Thou My Vision (3:58)
15. Clarinet Polka (with Beth Lassi, guitar) (2:14)
16. Give Me Jesus (3:27)
17. Castle of Dromore (3:12)
18. Mho Gille Mear (4:00)
19. Tallis’ Canon (3:48)
When listening to an album of instrumental music, and especially when it involves only one instrument, it becomes easy for the separate pieces to lose their distinctiveness. This album involves that effect. I wonder if, for future albums, other traditional instruments or good vocals could be added as accompaniment, to create more variety of sound between the different pieces. The fifteenth track, Clarinet Polka, is a good example, as it had a quicker and livelier pace than most of the other pieces and there was a guitar accompaniment. Listening to nineteen tracks covering over an hour of music became a bit much for me. Each piece was very nice, and I do think that it makes good background music or relaxation music, but I do not see it as an album that most people will want to listen to from beginning to end. At least, I would find it a challenge.
I received a free copy of this through Rambles.net in exchange for an objective review, and a review was also submitted to that site.
Copyright by Christian McCallister 2012.
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