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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review – Across The Digital Divide... “Home Sweet Home,” a Cassette Treasure

    If you read the preceding feature [it ran in the November 3 edition of the Acoustic Americana Music Guide's News Features, or the same thing available by itself at], you'll know what this new series is about.
    “Home Sweet Home” was released on the Cumberland label in 1997 on audio cassette tape. It's all-instrumental, all traditional instruments, with no vocals. It's one of the best we've ever heard of its kind.
    There are 13 tracks, all showcasing the hammered dulcimer artistry of Alisa Jones, the artist of record for the album. But this is head and shoulders above other first-rate dulcimer albums.
    The instrumentation is rich. The arrangements are all splendid. The players are all-stars. Stuart Duncan plays fiddle and clawhammer banjo. Ronnie McCoury is one of two players on mandolin. Rob Ickes plays Dobro. After Jones herself, top credit on the cassette's L-card went to Ron Wall on autoharp, followed by Mark Howard on guitars and mandolin and Roy Huskey, Jr., on upright bass. The players are rounded-out by Richard Bailey on banjo and Kenny Malone on drums and percussion.
    One engineer is a name we know well. David Ferguson and Mark Howard did the work at Eleven-O-Three Studios in Nashville, and Howard produced the album.
    Cumberland Records was then a division of Green Hill Productions, a division of Spring Hill Music Group, Inc. in Nashville.
    To call the total presentation charming must be qualified by adding that's not meant to convey the sarcasm sometimes intended. It IS charming, thoroughly delightful, an instrumental album that is neither invasive nor one you can ignore while you're doing something else. It elevates any mood and inspires proficiency in any musician. The brilliantly melodious takes on old traditional standards are as fresh as any you've ever heard. What more could you want?
    Side one (it's a cassette) has “Over the Waterfall,” “Southwind,” “Cluck Ol' Hen,” “Home Sweet Home” (in a really innovative tour-de-force on hammered dulcimer), “Daisy Dean,” “Mississippi Sawyer,” and “Huntin' for the Buffalo.”
    Side two is at least equally formidable, and our favorite side, with “Ragtime Annie” (not a common dulcimer tune), “Willow Garden,” “Uncle Joe,” “Grandfather's Clock,” “Devil's Dream,” and a rousing, fully instrumented “Arkansas Traveler.”
    If you're thinking, “Sounds good, but the hammered dulcimer is so jangly,” the happiest surprise is that Alisa Jones plays it like a harpsichord, and Walls' autoharp accompanies with precision – together with all those other string instrument virtuosos. This album was a treasure when it was first released, and it remains one of equal luster today.
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    Now, for the best news of all. “Home Sweet Home” IS AVAILABLE ON CD for $11.99 at  
    You can click buttons there for samples of some of this album's fine tracks.
    More from the Cumberland Records catalog of current and past releases can be found at and yes, they feature folk, Irish and Christmas music CDs.  
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    We hope you enjoyed this, our first new review of an old recording in our “Across the Digital Divide” series. How long the series continues will be determined by your interest and feedback.
    WE WELCOME YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR REVIEWS IN THIS SERIES – see the last paragraph of the preceding feature for details!
    More on the series and why we're doing it is at         
This review originally appeared in the November 3, 2011 edition of the Acoustic Americana Music Guide, available in its entirety at

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