Bill Flanagan – Hammered Dulcimer

My favorite hammered dulcimer CDs

My favorite hammered dulcimer CDs

The hammered dulcimer has a hauntingly beautiful sound and is used in a variety of musical styles including Celtic, new age, classical (particularly medieval and renaissance), up-tempo fiddle tunes, and so on. There are quite a few hammered dulcimer recordings to choose from. First I’ll list some general sources for hammered dulcimer CDs, and then I’ll discuss some of my personal favorite hammered dulcimer recordings.

General sources for hammered dulcimer CDs

Elderly Instruments

Elderly has a fairly extensive collection of acoustic music CDs in general, including a very good selection of hammered dulcimer CDs. Here’s a link that will take you directly to Elderly’s hammered dulcimer CD selection (Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer).

Maggie’s Music

Maggie Sansone is an excellent hammered dulcimer player who also runs her own record label called “Maggie’s Music.” In addition to Maggie’s own recordings, they have produced hammered dulcimer CDs by Karen Ashbrook as well as a group called “Ceoltoiri” (with Karen Ashbrook on hammered dulcimer). This is an excellent little company, and they also sell music books for many of the CDs. Check out the Maggie’s Music web site for more info (Maggie’s Music). Three of my favorite hammered dulcimer CDs are from Maggie’s Music: “Dance Upon the Shore” by Maggie Sansone; “Ceoltoiri” by Ceoltoiri; and “Hills of Erin” by Karen Ashbrook. Also check out Celtic harp CDs by Sue Richards and acoustic guitar CDs by Al Petteway.

Other Sources

Of course, if you hear about a great CD but can’t seem to find it at any of these places, it’s worth checking some of the big on-line sources such as Amazon.com.

Some of my favorite hammered dulcimer CDs

Evan Carawan – “Homeward Bound” One of my favorite hammered dulcimer players is Evan Carawan, from eastern Tennessee. He has produced several recordings, and “Homeward Bound” was his first. It has a great mix of traditional and original music, and the hammered dulcimer playing is phenomenal. Evan’s original compositions “Gomer Guru”, “Building the Perfect Clock”, “The Circle Dance”, and “The Dark Horse” really sparkle, as does his arrangement of “The Laird of Drum Blaire”. This is my favorite hammered dulcimer CD from a player’s perspective. It may be out of print, but you may be able to find a used copy at Amazon.

Evan Carawan – “A Month of Sundays” is Evan’s follow-up to “Homeward Bound” and it contains mostly (all?) original compositions. There is some really great stuff here, especially the beautiful “Stella’s Waltz.” However, I suspect it may also be out of print, and as of this writing I can’t seem to find an online source.

Maggie Sansone – “Dance Upon the Shore” This just might be my favorite hammered dulcimer CD from a listener’s perspective. “A cool Celtic voyage with traditional tunes and innovative new sounds from Ireland, Scotland and Brittany featuring hammered dulcimer.” Very smooth and sparkling with great ensemble arrangements that include fretless bass, some occasional saxaphone, and Al Petteway’s incredibly tasteful acoustic guitar work. Very relaxing and breathtaking. Get this one from Maggie’s Music.

Maggie Sansone – “Mist and Stone” Similar to “Dance Upon the Shore” but somewhat more traditional-sounding (no fretless bass or saxaphone). “Celtic tunes from Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Galicia performed on hammered dulcimer with other traditional instruments.” Again, you can get this one from Maggie’s Music.

Maggie Sansone – “Celtic Meditations” This just might be my other favorite hammered dulcimer CD from a listener’s perspective. It’s actually a compilation of relaxing (mellow) tunes from several of Maggie’s other albums, but it is packaged extremely well. Very relaxing and mesmerizing. I’ve already bought many copies as gifts for friends. Get this one from Maggie’s Music.

Ceoltoiri – “Ceoltoiri” This just might be my second-favorite hammered dulcimer CD from a listener’s perspective. “The Celtic harp and hammered dulcimer ring and mingle with the delicacy of hand-sewn lace in traditional tunes from Ireland and Scotland.” That description is pretty accurate! The hammered dulcimer is played by Karen Ashbrook and the Celtic harp is played by Sue Richards. Available from Maggie’s Music.

Karen Ashbrook – “Hills of Erin” Another excellent recording from Maggie’s Music. “A sweeping sonic travelogue of Ireland performed on hammered dulcimer, Irish flute, pennywhistle and piano.”

Tony Elman – “Earthtones” Very much in the “new acoustic” style, this CD features virtuoso guest musicions such as Darol Anger (violin), Mike Marshall (mandolin, guitar), Edgar Meyer (bass), and Todd Phillips (also bass). “…a rich blend of adventurous rhythms and evocative melodies…” You can get this one from Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer.

Tony Elman – “Swinging on a Gate” A more traditional, fast-paced style of hammered dulcimer playing. Includes Richard Greene on violin. “An exuberant recording of international folk tunes.” “Virtuoso playing with a respect and dedication that is simply remarkable” – Woodlark Music Review. “A joyful romp through traditional music. As bright and cheery as a winter fire.” – Daily Californian. You can get this one from Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer.

Tony Elman – “Winter Creek” “…an instrumental collection of winter melodies and carols – English, French, Spanish, American, gospel and original – featuring the hammered dulcimer with over a dozen folk instruments.” Side-men include Mike Marshall (guitars, mandolin, violin) and Todd Phillips (bass). You can get this one from Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer.

Maggie Sansone – “Sounds of the Season” and “Sounds of the Season II” Excellent hammered dulcimer Christmas CDs. You can get these from Maggie’s Music.

Sam Rizzeta – “Seven Valleys” Sam Rizzeta is famous for being one of the finest hammered dulcimer designers and builders around, as well as an original member of the group “Trapezoid.” This recording is all solo hammered dulcimer and has some nice stuff performed on standard hammered dulcimers as well as dulcetta (higher tone) and bass (lower tone) hammered dulcimers. You can get this recording from Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer.

Dan Duggan – “Trillium Lane” This is a great set of original compositions from a fine hammered dulcimer player who lives somewhere in upstate New York. You can get this CD directly from Dan Duggan at Esperance Productions.

Jerry Read Smith – “Strayaway Child” “The Strayaway Child Trilogy is an instrumental journey that is a reflection of life. The Strayaway Child (vol. 1 in the trilogy) begins with “The Dream” and then weaves its way through Celtic melody, a New Orleans waltz and the classical “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Hammered dulcimer and guitar are complimented by fiddle, flute and dobro as this beginning of the journey expresses the youthful wanderlust of both the imagination and reality where the edges are sometimes hard to see.” The trilogy continues with “Heartdance” and “Homecoming”. You can get these from Elderly Instruments Recordings – Hammered Dulcimer.