By Steve Werner

Mason and Weed Across the Pond“I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends than we are unalike.” —Maya Angelou

Sometime when I was young, back around the year 1838, someone turned me onto the music of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Ever since then, guitar/fiddle duo music has been high on my radar. That was even before I went to play rockabilly in Sweden, where I was launched headfirst down the deep rabbit hole of Scandinavian fiddle culture, being transfixed by the great spelmanslags around Dalarna, Magnus Stinnerbom’s Outhouse All-stars and guys like Denmark’s Harold Haugaard and Morton Hoirup.

Now, Central California is a long way from the cold climes of Northern Europe, but the tradition of fiddle music has indeed found its way there. The old music migrated with the masses seeking the new world, across the wide Atlantic, ran through the hills and hollers of the American southeast, the bogs of Louisiana, up to Canada and westward across the plains and deserts. The old traditions became the new traditions.

Fiddler John Weed and Guitarist Stuart Mason are no strangers to this stuff. Their Celtic juggernaut Molly’s Revenge has burned up festival stages all across the west. So has their bluegrass/old-time mob Little Black Train as well as Story Road with Colleen Raney.

Because of these various collaborations, we already know that Mason and Weed are great interpreters of fiddle tradition. Their stunning new collection of tunes called Across the Pond goes much, much deeper. The intimacy of the duo format serves them well as they deftly explore the connections of far-flung regions in song. Engineered by Ryan Davidson and mixed/mastered by Jurgen Treys, the closer, quieter sound brings out the expansiveness in each of their playing.

From the opening strains of The Cross Jigs we are led on a journey from Donegal, to Quebec to Texas to Louisiana to Clare County to North Carolina to Massachusetts even to Buellton California. The fine thread running through the album, is the songs and the sweet fiddle that connects them all together so seamlessly that all divisions of place and culture are demolished, (as they should be).

The whole album is great and I’ve listened to it a thousand times in my truck. But I do have my special favorites. Roving on a Winter’s Night is a song the late Doc Watson liked to play and their interpretation is heartfelt and spot on. Though Con Cassidy’s Waltz comes from Donegal, Ireland, when I heard it I was sure it came from Sweden. It reminded me so much of Scandinavia, I was transported right back to the park in Rättvik where I was first entranced by a Swedish waltz. Down in West Virginia, I figured for sure was a hundred year-old coal mining song turns out to have been written by the ubiquitous Buellton California Songwriter Randall Lamb.

This wonderful collection of 12 songs proves undeniably that our differences are so much smaller than our similarities. I know it, you know it, Stuart Mason and John Weed damn sure know it. Now if only the rest of the world could figure it out.

Highly recommended.

Across the Pond can be downloaded here or purchased from Stu and John at one of their performances.

Steve Werner is a biker-sailor-adventurer-folksinger-songwriter who lives aboard his sailboat in Ventura California. He has a long strange history in music. Steve plays shows rarely and, like Nosferatu, only when invited. When not invited, he is perfectly content to sail his boat, ride his motorcycle, party with his friends and live small. You can listen and download his recent album "Just Passing Through" for free at his website or feel free to drop him a line at folksinger59@hotmail.com