By Barry Smiler


Lissa Schneckenburger is probably best known as one of the finest New England contradance fiddlers in the country. If you should happen to have the opportunity to dance to her playing you are in for a treat.

Her lively fiddling has a magically unique way of energizing the dancers and driving the dance.

Having said that ... this album is named Song; it isn't named Fiddling. That's because the focus here is on Lissa singing old and traditional songs from Maine where she grew up. Now, the instrumental work, by Lissa and others, is very well done, tastefully and inventively modern, quite listenable stuff. But the playing serves mostly to support the lyrics, not to stand on its own. If you're mostly a fiddling fan you might want to wait until 2009 when Lissa releases Dance, a companion CD which will focus on her instrumental work. Hopefully Lissa will have released Dance by February when she comes to Los Angeles for the Fiddling Frog 2009 dance weekend festival.

But as to Song, if you enjoy unaffected, straight-ahead, classic folk song singing, accompanied by imaginatively modern yet suitably understated arrangements (tastefully New England reserved, as it were) you'll like this CD. They're fine songs, all from Maine, mostly collected by the pioneering ballad folklorist Phillips Barry from good Maine sources. Ayup.

But why take my word for it? Here on the intertubes we're not limited by the tired old constraints of twentieth century dead trees media.

Want to listen to a few? Hey, you got it. Here are live versions of The Fair Maid By The Sea Shore

, and

Lissa also offers samples from the album on her website, her MySpace page, or from sonicbids.

Her website also has a wonderful poem by Dudley Laufman, the pioneering fiddler and dance caller who, with the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra recorded the very first contradance record almost forty years ago, called How Contra Dancing Was Invented. No, I won't tell you exactly where. Go poke around on Lissa's website till you find it. Not only is the poem well worth the finding, but in the looking you'll discover lots of other interesting bits she has kindly placed there for our interest, edification, and amusement. Nice site, Lissa. Thanks for that.

And thanks for Song too. It's a keeper.