Peter will play Bop Shop Records on November 25th at 5pm
In conjunction with Black Friday, Record Store Day and the release of Peter’s new CD!
1460 Monroe Ave. Rochester New York
The article below is from a review from PITCHFORK contributed by Jesse Jarnow
The 78-year-old folk legend remains in a spirit full of joy, an embodiment of old-time string band chaos and a bastion of enthusiasm for the legacy of music as storytelling.
Communicating unbridled enthusiasm the same way Johnny Rotten once vocalized a sneer, Peter Stampfel’s singing is the type that might either drive people from rooms or pull them closer. An underground musician in the early 1960s and an underground musician now, the fiddler-banjoist’s gleeful howl has always framed his music as belonging to some faction of the other, as symbolic as a fuzzed-out guitar once seemed to be. Except in the 21st century, with the out-of-control charge of the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” most lately heard in an Audi ad campaign, Stampfel’s voice continues to be exactly as untamable as it was in the ’60s, an aural pointer to a wild bohemia.
On Holiday For Strings, the 78-year-old Stampfel remains in a spirit of full folky joy, an embodiment of old-time string band chaos before its somber post-O Brother, Where Art Thou reconstruction. An early convert to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and its vision of an “old, weird America” (in Greil Marcus’ term), Stampfel took more to the weird than the old. But having hung on to his weird for three-quarters of a century, he now gets to be both, and his personable croak finds unlikely entrance points to unlikely songs.
Recording with an ensemble dubbed the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm (for its buzzing three-fiddle-minimum arrangements), the result is actually a chaotic big band that gives Stampfel a sympathetic and ever-changing bed for his singing. It is the sound of people making music together, pianos and steel guitars appearing alongside other vibrations as needed, playing songs entirely dictated by what might be called “the folk process.” With only two of the songs credited fully to Stampfel (the instrumentals “Lily” and “Lonely Goth Girl”), the rest are modified traditional or contemporary numbers or songs with blurrier origins (like a version of the fiddle instrumental “Blackberry Blossom” with lyrics by Michelle Shocked).
As co-founder of the ’60s/’70s folk-imploding Holy Modal Rounders, Stampfel was the first to use the word “psychedelic” in a recorded song on “Hesitation Blues” in 1964 and going semi-electric with everybody else a few years later. But Stampfel has remained a fully committed folkie through decades of bands and creative partnerships, most lately with New York songwriter Jeffrey Lewis. It is here that Stampfel’s very vocal enthusiasm generates meaning within his music, providing a source for his long-term creative energy as much as his in-the-moment expression. On Holiday For Strings, Stampfel takes hold of traditional tunes like “Johnny Get Your Gun” and “Yankee Doodle,” turning the latter into a topical stomp on gun nuts, “Honky Doody.” But the album finds its heart in less-traditional borrowings, like introducing Joe Meek’s 1962 space-age instrumental “Telstar” into the folk canon.
While there’s fun to be had, the album’s best performances come on a trio of tender pop songs, each sounding like a more unhinged version of the recent albums of standards arranged for string bands by Stampfel’s former jamming buddy and one-time roommate, Bob Dylan. Just as with Dylan’s Shadows in the Night, it might be easy enough to giggle while Stampfel’s voice warbles and breaks through “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” Ray Charles’ countrypolitan hit written by Don Gibson. But, as with Dylan, that would be to miss Stampfel’s deeply human and well-read performance, as cracked as Gibson’s original is smooth. The same holds true of the album’s two most devastating moments, a nearly straight cover of Lou Reed’s “Cremation,” from 1992’s Magic and Loss, rewritten lightly as “Cold Black Sea,” and “Star in the Wind,” written with Stampfel’s former girlfriend/collaborator, the one-named Antonia. Sounding like something Dylan might get to yet, the words come sourced from a mid-’50s installment of Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo, a poem by the artist about a daughter who died in infancy.
There is a modesty to Stampfel’s half-century of small-scale folk detonations, but also an earnest and inviting curiosity. His verve spills into textual form via grammar-busting liner notes (though Stampfel is also a professional copyeditor), like a musical equivalent of a Facebook wall crammed with annotated YouTube clips. As filled with excitement to be playing and sharing music in his 70s as he was as a teen, Holiday For Strings works just as well as a recruiting poster for the future folkies of America. Like punk, the anarchic arrangements contain the message that anybody can do this, but Stampfel also makes a pretty excellent argument for why it’s still worth doing