I’m convinced the hardest thing to do as a producer is to extract the maximum essence of a musician in a recording session and not allow production sparkle to gloss over the natural talent. Ben Winship produced (he just released a recording of his own, Toolshed, that I recommend) the new album from Natalie Padilla, Fireweed, and he seems to have done just that. Padilla is a national fiddle champ, a fiddle professor at University of Northern Colorado, a member of the traditional bluegrass group Masontown, a violinist with the National Repertory Orchestra, and performs on her own. Virtually all of those facets make an appearance on this record.
The disc starts with Goose, a Celtic lilting fiddle tune. More important to know is it’s about a former roommate’s excitable terrier first thing in the morning. Let that picture come alive in your mind and you know how the song sounds. There are quite a few instrumental numbers on the album besides that one, many of them waltzes. They’re inspired by things as disparate as a fiddle contest, Janet’s Waltz, to Natalie’s mom, Nancy Ann.
Some of the best songs on the record showcase Padilla’s soaring vocals. Peasant & the Prince is a love song, albeit through the eyes of a resident of a country at war . Piggy Piggy Pie is a tale of driving by a pig farm full of cute piglets, but also being a self-aware carnivore. The title track evokes Fall in the mountains.
There are a number of musicians backing up Padilla on this record. But make no mistake about it, Fireweed is a fiddler’s showcase. There are waltzes and jigs and dances, hoedowns and festival jams and fiddle contests. It really is old-timey music at its finest.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.