Melissa Bragdon Caron and Kathy Zimpfer Sommer team up with Ellen Carlson for a fiddle-centric project loaded with great musical moments. From the opening cut, "Big John McNeil," where they romp through several keys with triple fiddles all the while playing harmony, they set a standard that is held on a wide range of music. Each one of the fiddlers is an accomplished musician demonstrating not only extreme discipline in an ensemble but also the ability to take a melody and run with exquisite improvisation. The diversity of material on the project is stunning. It includes two Bill Monroe tunes, tunes by Bob Wills, Guy Clark, Chuck Berry, and David Grisman – all in powerful arrangements that bring life to each piece. The able backup musicians lay down a consistent groove that incorporates western swing, rockabilly, bluegrass, and country. For all fans of American fiddle – including the U.S. and Canada – this project is worth your attention.
Bob Buckingham, Fiddler Magazine, Spring 2022
ELLEN CARLSON, "PEOPLE I PLAY WITH"
"Ellen Carlson is a New Hampshire fiddler with a strong grasp on several genres. Her major influences include Vassar Clements and Pete Southerland. Hints or more of both of these fiddlers show up in her playing. She has also absorbed much from other fiddlers she has met and played with. The tunes are as varied as the styles she plays. We hear bluegrass, swing, folk, old-time, and just darn good acoustic music. She sings as well as she fiddles.
"The opening cut (an original) 'Cold Winters' celebrates nearly half the year in that frigid clime. It's a great tune and a lot of fun as a song. From there, she moves through one of the most wonderfully outrageous readings of 'Ragtime Annie,' an old favorite that all too often limps along, but here it is a rollicking, rambunctious romp. There are a couple of swing numbers including another original, 'The Gal With The Boots From Colorado.' As one might expect, there are some great northern tunes and a great jam on 'Forked Deer,' with several fiddles all running together, then apart, then back together again in a wonderful aural collage.
"The songs are all top-shelf. 'Too Much' from Guy Clark, 'Across The Great Divide' from the late Kate Wolf, and a nice original 'I Hope For You' that Carlson wrote for her nieces and nephews. This is a fine recording of varied music that grows on the listener with each listening and is recommended to folks who like great fiddle, well-sung top-quality songs, and want something different out of life."
Robert Buckingham, Bluegrass Unlimited, June 1, 2013
"Then the CD hit the player and all bets were off. A sinuous fiddle line snaked out of the speaker. 'Hmmm, they got Vassar to do the session with them,' I thought. Nope, it's an exceptionally talented musician named Ellen Carlson, who's incorporated the best elements of Vassar's unique style into her own highly melodic playing."
Robert Buckingham, Bluegrass Unlimited, Nov. 2003
"My favorite musician on this album is fiddler Ellen Carlson. She seems to be everywhere and everything she plays seems to fit perfectly. It's always dangerous to compare anyone to a musical giant, but I feel compelled. Of course, no one plays all shades of progressive bluegrass/acoustic music like the master Vassar Clements. That said, Carlson seems to have that same innate feel for what style is right for each song."
Kris Garnjost, Jam Music Magazine, Nov. 2000
[Disclaimer from Ellen: While Vassar is one of her heroes, not for a second does she even think she compares to him and she's still hoping he will beam her down some more of those tasty licks.]
"… fiddler Ellen Carlson, whose sweet-toned instrument soars throughout this recording."
Steve Goldfield, Bluegrass Unlimited, May 2008
"Carlson’s fiddle work is really cool -- all over the place and improvisational."
Sam Pfeifle, The Portland Phoenix, May 2003
"Ellen's fiddle playing doesn't stink."
Todd Jones, High Range
"When Carlson is playing, she literally 'paints with her bow.' She's always in sync with other band members, playing forcefully when she's up and providing superb background at other times."
Terry Litchfield, York Weekly, Feb. 2001