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Critton Hollow String Band

Taking its name from the Hampshire County road near Paw Paw where two of the members live, Critton Hollow String Band took form in 1975 with a heart-felt dedication to kindle community life and spirit with their music. Since then Critton Hollow has travelled across the US and Canada playing to audiences from small front-porch gatherings to large festivals. Their warmth and honest approach to music enables even the largest crowd to be come an intimate part of their program.

The members of Critton Hollow String Band - Joe Herrmann (fiddle), Sam Herrmann (dulcimer) and Joe Fallon (banjo and more)- have been playing music most of their lives. A typical Critton Hollow program includes driving old-time songs, fiddle tunes, sensitively harmonized ballads, and traditional and contemporary folk songs. From diverse backgrounds they wind their way through a varied repertoire achieving their common goal: to harmonize and blend. From appearances on NBC's Today Show to NPR's Mountain Stage, Critton Hollow has been delighting audiences and dancers throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1975. Critton Hollow is a favorite at dance camps and festivals around the country.

"The band tends a stable of tunes lovingly crafted with smooth harmonies and precise playing."­Michael Lipton, Charleston Gazette

"Great instrumentation and outstanding vocals from a band that is a contemporary manifestation of a tradition that reaches back to the time of Appalachia's first settlers." --Dot Harris, Barnfolk Concerts, Riverside, CA

"For those who worry that this music is dying, listen to Critton Hollow and take heart." - Sing Out Magazine

Joe Fallon began his musical journey playing guitar as a teenager and listening the music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. In the early 70s he was a staple of the Boston traditional music scene playing bass with various bands. He was a member of the influential Backwoods Band and joined The Critton Hollow String Band in 1981. Joe sings, plays bass, banjo, guitar, and most recently button accordion. He performs on four Critton Hollow recordings.


Joe Herrmann (fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar) is a talented multi-instrumentalist who has been making music for over 30 years. He is well-known in traditional music circles for his singing and instrumental prowess. He founded The Critton Holow String Band with his wife, Sam, in 1975, and has played at festivals, concert halls and dance camps throughout the U.S. and Canada. He also performed with The Fiddle Puppet Dancers for 16 years and with them toured the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Japan. Joe has taught banjo and fiddle workshops at numerous music camps and has five Critton Hollow recordings to his credit.

Sam Herrmann's odyssey with the hammered dulcimer began at the Fiddler's Convention in Galax in the early 1970's, shortly after being verbally introduced to the instrument by her husband, Joe. "His description of the hammered dulcimer went to my soul," says Sam. "Then after actually seeing one in Galax, I decided right away that I would build one, even though Joe thought I was nuts to try it." Sam went to her friend, Doug Wilson, who was building a harpsichord from a kit at the time. Though no dulcimer kits were around in those days, Sam managed to get an instrument together by using Doug's cabinet-building skills, Sam Rizzetta plans, and the book How to Build a Hammered Dulcimer by Howie Mitchell. "It turned out to be a 35-pound monstrosity with a wonderful bright tone, about 18 four-string treble courses, and 17 three-string bass courses. But after Joe and I hauled it around for ten years, it just got too heavy," remembers Sam. After researching what was available, she then purchased a dulcimer made by Jim Taylor, from Mars Hill, North Carolina at the time. She chose from among four instruments after testing each to find the one most compatible with Joe's fiddle, and has been making music with this dulcimer ever since.

Sam's pivotal trip to Galax was also her introduction to the broad range of Southern Appalachian music. Learning it became a focus in her life, and the genre influenced her style of playing. "I am not an ornamental player, but rather a rhythmic, percussive one, and my style lends itself well to the rhythmic fiddle tunes of Southern Appalachian music," says Sam. "Critton Hollow specializes in traditional music; and, in a way, the dulcimer has been a bread and butter selling point for our music despite the fact that it is not universally accepted in the old-time music world. It's opened doors to dulcimer festivals as well as folk festivals."

Sam's style also thrives on group dynamics since she gets most of her musical energy and inspiration from playing with other people, especially with her husband. "We have been playing together since we were infants," she jokes. "I've never wanted to be a soloist, so my style works best with old-time music. I like to mimic the fiddle. Since Joe and I learned together, when we play it's often in perfect unison, both rhythmically and melodically." She was completely isolated from other hammered dulcimer players the first two years she was learning, and the time alone had a big effect on her style. Sam holds her dulcimer in a horizontal position instead of slanting it. She still uses the homemade wood hammers Joe made that were designed flat on the holding end, and with weighted nubs of wood on the playing end which contribute to her rhythmic style."I didn't have the visual knowledge when I first made my dulcimer, so I had to create my own way," she says.

 

Hampshire County Arts Council, P.O. Box 624, Romney, WV 26757 www.hampshirearts.org    webmaster e-mail address

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