Bruce Molsky w/ Jim Miller
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Bruce Molsky stands today as one of the premier old-time fiddlers in the world, a defining virtuoso of Appalachia's timeless folk music traditions. That must feel odd for a former engineer from the Bronx, who didn't begin a music career until he was forty. But folded into those strange facts is the secret to his unique genius.
In addition to a prolific solo career, performing on fiddle, guitar, and banjo, Molsky frequently joins genre-busting supergroups, like the Grammy-nominated Fiddlers Four, and Mozaik, with Hungarian Nikola Parov, and Celtic giant Donal Lunny. He was on Nickel Creek's farewell tour, and performs in a trio with Scottish fiddler Aly Bain and Sweden's great Ale Moller.
"Playing in these kinds of groups is an important part of what I do," Molsky says. "Regionalism was one of the hallmarks of traditional music in the old days; now we're in the Information Age, and I don't think that's what folk music does anymore. But the more cultures I discover, the more I realize that folk music performs the same function for everybody; and therefore is the same thing everywhere - just spoken with different accents."
Molsky was born in the Bronx in 1955, and fell in love with old-time music as a teenager. He moved to Virginia in the '70s, learning directly from old masters like Tommy Jarrell, and seeing how the music fit into people's lives.
"It was only the older people, of Tommy's generation, who still had the music as part of their everyday existence," Molsky says. "At first, I wanted to live like that; but then I realized I didn't want to claim the culture as my own - I just loved the music."
That personal authenticity deeply informs his music. Whether performing an ancient reel from Virginia, a Swedish waltz, or a loping cowboy ballad, Molsky presents himself as exactly who he is. Rob Simons, executive director of the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, says that's the key to Molsky's enormous appeal as a live performer: "He's that unique blend of virtuoso and humble, nice guy that is irresistible to audiences."
Perhaps that's how he discovered the real secret to the humble genius of traditional music: that it's real people's music; the honest expression of life as we all live it. You don't master that by imitating others, nor by trying to live in other people's worlds. You master it by being yourself; and at that profoundly simple and profoundly difficult musical art, Molsky is truly old-time's master craftsman.
"I'm still a social musician," he says, "in the sense that I talk to an audience the way I talk to people in my house; and I play for them just like we're all in the living room together. I want to present myself as who I am; and this music as what it is. The biggest lesson from changing careers at mid-life is that you discover the strength is not in what you do; it's in who you are."
Jim Miller has been performing traditional and country music for decades (he and Bruce played in a band together in 1975), but his recording career dates back even further! At 8 years old Jim sang soprano and toured the Canadian Prairies with the Saskatoon Boys Choir. Thirty years later he co-founded the roots-based band Donna the Buffalo. He toured with that band for 15 years, performing across the US at festivals such a Bonnaroo, Rhythm & Roots, and Telluride. In addition to five CDs with DTB, Jim has recorded with Tim O'Brien, Jim Lauderdale, Ginny Hawker, Carol Elizabeth Jones, Dirk Powell, and Tara Nevins. He also writes books about moths and butterflies, and played electric guitar with Louisiana legend Preston Frank as a member of Big Daddy Zydeco.
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