By Kevin Carr

Three_Mile_Stone.jpgThree Mile Stone are three musical compatriots playing and singing sweet, soulful Irish music in the San Francisco Bay Area. Friends for many years, mandolinist Marla Fibish, fiddler Erin Schrader, and guitarist Richard Mandel formalized their musical comradeship as Three Mile Stone several years back, and music lovers are the better for it. There is an easy, trance inducing lilt to everything on this recording, even the driving (and they do drive!) tunes. Lots of love in these notes.

Lots of chops, too. Erin is a rare fiddler of taste and emotional tone with a sense of space and roots in her playing that is quite beguiling. And Richard is her match on guitar, with a lightning right hand and spot on chord choices. He is also a precise and powerful tenor banjo player. And Marla is a wonder on the mandolin; rhythmic beyond imagination, clear as a bell tone, great invention, lovely ornaments at just the right times and places, and a sureness and ease that allows the listener to relax and be carried away. She also has a deft touch on the accordion.

And I love their voices. Erin's has character, ease, and beauty in equal measure, and she delivers Irish song with a laid back reverence that is skillful and soulful in its simplicity. She has done her mentor Joe Heaney proud. Richard's harmony blend is perfect. And Marla has a voice that would melt the iciest heart - rich, strong, sweet and emotional. Their choice of songs suit their skills and the overall mood of the recording. Erin gives us a Heather on the Moor with appropriate echoes of Paul Brady and a gentle flowing feeling like a spring breeze on a fine day. She also sings Dark is the Color solo, and it is a gem, deceptively simple, and simply beautiful. Marla sings Last Winter was a Hard One, a song about hard times among immigrants, with just the right mix of acceptance and longing in her voice. She also does Song of the Wage Slave her setting of a Robert Service poem. We sink into her music and voice and the evocative, heartbreaking poetry - quite hypnotic. The arrangements are all lovely, and lovingly suited to the songs.

Three Mile Stone gives us their time honed versions of well known tunes. like their romping Wheels of the World/Queen of the Rushes/John Dwyer's/Christmas Eve set, with inventive tune changes, great interplay between the instruments and a sense that they love playing together. They also play rarer gems like Brian Montague's and Snug in a Blanket with great lift and nuance. The addition of a couple of Quebecois tunes, Michel Bourdelou's Fleur de Mandragore, the traditional Gigue a Médée, and a french waltz, La Valse des Pastoriaux by Jackie Molard, adds just the right amount of gallic spice to complement the gaelic in the broth.

Pretty obvious that I quite enjoyed this recording. John Doyle is getting quite a name as a producer, and judging by his efforts here, it is very well deserved. This cd is a pure drop of pure music, and well worth the effort to acquire.


Kevin Carr has a touch of musical attention deficit disorder; he plays with Wake the Dead (Celtic/Grateful Dead folk orchestra), Hillbillies from Mars (folk fusion dance band with roots that show), Les Tetes de Violon (Quebecois fiddle band), Charanga (Galician style big band) and Confluence (Irish and Original, with a full complement of family members). He also maintains and plays a large stable of bagpipes.