Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eric Christopher makes an album of Upper-Midwest music.

This year Minnesota fiddler Eric Christopher put out an album of Upper Midwest fiddle music.  I wanted to catch up with him about his project and research, so he came over to my house a few months back to talk and play some tunes.

Eric playing one of his own compositions.

Eric has been a staple in the Twin Cities bluegrass scene for many years.  He has played in the High 48's, Tangled Roots, and Minor Planets.  Old-school bluegrass has always been his favorite, but he has dabbled in everything from punk rock to alt-country.

Eric playing a tune from a Craig Ruble recording. Craig learned it
from the playing of Selmer Ramsey.

For this latest project, and his first with only fiddle tunes, he decided to explore what music was closer to home for him by learning tunes from the Upper Midwest states.  He wanted to see if he could connect to a more "Northern" sound.  He has already integrated some of these tunes into his other bands' sets.

His sources are a great wealth of musical knowledge.  Chirps Smith is a walking encyclopedia of Illinios tunes who played and learned from the late Garry Harrison.  Eric studied some tunes of Les Raber, who was a Michigan dance fiddler for 80 years and left behind a wealth of tunes.  Eric learned a tune from our own Sara Pajunen, whose Minnesota-Finnish style can also be heard on the Minnesota Fiddle Tunes Project CD.  Although it didn't make the album, Eric learned Red River Jig, which is a staple of the North Dakota Metis fiddlers.   He also picked up a Selmer Ramsey tune from Craig Ruble and the Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble.

This project was a good excuse for him to break outside of his bluegrass box, and play with some his favorite musicians in a new context for him.  I am glad that a good young fiddler has also decided to tackle this area's music. The result is a album that is very easy on the ears. I look forward to hearing more from Eric in the future as he continues to explore our region's music.

You can buy Eric's album here.

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