Two legends of old-time Appalachian music—the clawhammer-banjo virtuoso Ken Perlman and the masterful fiddler Alan Jabbour—will play tunes from their highly acclaimed “Southern Summits” CD in Huntsville, AL, on Saturday night.

Just about any diehard fan of old-time (pre-bluegrass) music will be familiar with Jabbour. The former UCLA professor, who apprenticed with Upper South fiddlers like Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Va., and Tommy Jarrell of Toast, N.C., led the Hollow Rock String Band during the folk revival of the 1960s. His cultural credentials include stints as head of the Archive of Folk Song and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and as director of the folk arts program for the National Endowment for the Arts. For his part, Perlman is well-known among banjo-pickers as a pioneer of the 5-string banjo style known as “melodic clawhammer,” a more intricate variant of the gentler, down-picking style of banjo that traces its roots to Africa and was played throughout the South prior to the advent of Earl Scruggs’ supercharged, three-finger technique. Considered one of the top clawhammer players in the world, Perlman draws his material from a wide variety of traditional sources, including the music of Scotland, Ireland, Canada’s Cape Breton and Prince Edward islands, and, of course, the American South. Like Jabbour, Perlman is also a prodigious folklorist. He has spent the better part of the past decade, for example, collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island. (He’ll play a few of these tunes in Huntsville as solo banjo pieces.)

Whether you’re already a fan of this music or have never heard a fiddle-banjo duet played in the old-time style, the chance to see Perlman and Jabbour perform together is a rare opportunity to witness traditional music at its best. Their energetic, highly rhythmic performances include faithful renditions of tunes from fiddlers like Archie Stewart of Prince Edward Island, Edden and Burl Hammons of Pocahontas County, W. Va., and, first and foremost, Virginia’s Henry Reed, who was the source for 14 of the 23 tunes on “Southern Summits.” Ever-mindful of the debt they owe to a great generation of fiddlers–now all deceased–Jabbour and Perlman are American treasures in their own right.

Ken Perlman & Alan Jabbour

  • Saturday, Oct. 23 – Huntsville, AL. 7:00 p.m., Flying Monkey Arts, 2211 Seminole Drive Southwest. Admission: $10. Contact: Jim Holland.
  • Monday, Oct. 25 – Louisville, KY. 7:00 p.m., Bird Hall, School of Music, University of Louisville. Contact: Jack Ashworth.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 26 – Goodlettsville, TN. 7:30 p.m., Historic Mansker’s Station, 705 Caldwell Dr. Contact: Laura Blankenship, 615-859-3678.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 27 – Lexington, KY. Noon-1:00 p.m., Niles Center for American Music Gallery, Lucille Little Fine Arts Library, University of Kentucky. Contact: Prof. Ron Pen, 859-257-8183.
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Joel Groover

Joel Groover

Joel Groover is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose past glories include writing obits at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, enduring a stint as a beat reporter at The Marietta Daily Journal and taking in some culture as a senior editor at Art & Antiques. He earned his journalism degree at The University of Georgia.