NO DEPRESSION – Sept-Oct 2007
Postmodern traditionalism – “Exploring the grayscale between the profound and the profane, Flat Mountain Girls’ music thrives on the tension between the group’s obsession with traditional old-time tunes and the modern twist they instinctively apply to these compositions. Their repertoire and instrumental lineup may be strictly traditional, but the attitude with which they play is decidedly post-everything. You could accurately describe them as “oldtime for modern times,” even as the group’s setlist brims with songs credited to Carters, Louvins, and Trad.”
– Corey Dubrowa
Review of “Idle Talk & Wicked Deeds“, our latest CD
“A moment at last winter’s RiverCity Bluegrass Festival truly captured Portland’s Flat Mountain Girls. This bunch of bawdy string twisters wrapped themselves around one microphone and sang a raggedy-but-powerful chorus full of attitude:
You want forgiveness?/Tell it to Jesus/It’s his job, not mine.
The song, “Forgiveness,” is found on the Flat Mountain Girls’ new CD, “Idle Talk & Wicked Deeds,” their third, and a fine capture of their take on old-time music.
Band founders Rachel Gold (vocals/banjo) and Lisa Marsicek (vocals/fiddle) have added the delightfully buoyant vocals and guitar of Nann Alleman and Misty River bassist Laura Quigley. All are featured admirably on this recording. The 15 tunes fairly leap from stereo speakers with urgency and punch.
Long known for their tight-as-a-whiskey-bottle-cork harmonizing, the members also are sparkling instrumentalists. They move effortlessly from Appalachian to Carter Family tunes, with side trips to Texas for swing and blues, rousing Southern fiddle tunes, even a gripping ballad.
Highlights on “Idle Talk & Wicked Deeds” include a rough-and-tumble “Sleepy Eyed John,” featuring Alleman’s lighthearted chirp and Marsicek’s rambling fiddle; the minor-key lament “My Epitaph” highlighting Gold’s alto vocals and Quigley’s rumbling bowed doghouse bass; the bluesy and shuffling “All My Love in Vain,” with its three-part harmony; and “Sandy Boys,” boasting tight fiddling and banjo picking.
Few cities can boast as strong an old-time music scene as Portland, and few quartets are as accomplished or as much rollicking fun as the Flat Mountain Girls.”
– The Oregonian, May 2007
Sing Out! – Fall 2006
“Although there is a tendency on the part of many to associate the term old-time music almost solely with the fiddle-and-banjo music of Appalachia, the fact is that old-time music comes in many varieties that include not only string band music, but depending on what part of the country youre talking about can also venture into cowboy music, vintage “turn of the (19th) century” parlor music, “pop” music found only on Edison cylinders and much more.
Based in Portland, Oregon, the Flat Mountain Girls (Lisa Marsicek, fiddle; Rachel Gold, banjo; Nann Alleman, guitar; and Arthur Parker, bass) demonstrate a fascinating and, at times, eerie talent for harkening back to many of these “side streets” of old-time music. For example, among the 16 tracks here that feature yodeling,* the Girls manage to strike a frightening echo (and this is meant in an entirely approving way) of the DeZurik Sisters, also known as the Cackle Sisters, who were widely heard nationally on radio in the ’30s and ’40s via the WSL Dance Barn and other popular shows.
Though instrumentally solid and satisfying on familiar fare like “Black-eyed Susie,” “Hangman’s Reel” and “Snake River Reel,” the Girls are at their best on off-beat and rollicking material like “Deadheads and Suckers,” the classic Riley Puckett tune “Riley’s Henhouse,” “John Brown’s Dream” and “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.” They also dip into the Utah Phillips songbook for a distinctive and powerful rendition of “Rock Salt and Nails.” Old-time music, however defined, grew out of ordinary folks sitting around playing music for the sheer fun of it, and the Flat Mountain Girls clearly haven’t forgotten that it’s supposed to be fun.”
– Sing Out! Vol. 50 ..3 Fall 2006
Reviews of “honey take your whiskers off“, our second CD
“The Flat Mountain Girls are an old-time string band from Portland, Oreg. The 16 selections include the instrumentals “Boatman” and “Hangman’s Reel,” along with “Deadheads and Suckers,” “Riley’s Henhouse,” and a relatively obscure Louvin Brothers tune “When I Loved You.” The vocal trios are particular highlights, along with the group’s high-energy fiddling. the Flat Mountain Girls have created a charming offering of old-time music performed with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.”
– Bluegrass Unlimited, April 2006
“Before Television there was only radio to entertain folks after supper on many a night. Well “The Flat Mountain Girls” are just too young to have been on the radio back in those days but continue a sound that has almost vanished from the music industry today by presenting their music pure and honest. This new release is as roots as roots music can get. These ladies harmonize wonderfully and their style is just fantastic. This is acoustic bluegrass at it very best.”
– Roots Music Report, March 2006
“Move over Uncle Earl. I haven’t enjoyed an old time album so much since The Red Clay Ramblers were at the height of their powers in the 70’s. The main draw here is the kick ass singing, but the playing is raw and fine, too.”
– CD Baby reviews, 2005
“I love this CD! This CD does a great job of capturing the fun, playful
energy of The Flat Mountain Girls. If you close your eyes while listening to it, you can almost see them, dancing with their instruments on the front porch in their prairie dresses, swilling whiskey between songs. It just makes ya smile! My 10 year old daughter loves it, too. The Flat Mountain Girls have become something of a role model for her, inspiring her to take more guitar lessons.”
– CD Baby reviews, 2005
“The Flat Mountain Girls’ new album, Honey Take Your Whiskers Off dig[s] up music from a bygone era, summoning up the image of sisters singing in a county fair. All the usual suspects of old-time music revival acts abound: twangy harmonies, jaunty banjo and guitar playing, and a high-lonesome fiddle, played beautifully by Lisa Marsicek. By releasing an album of mostly covers, the Flat Mountain Girls have made the songs the real stars. The songs feel as raw and as fresh as when they first leaked out of a dusty living-room radio.”
– Willamette Week, October 2005
Hipfish – November 2005
“Serving up the goods on the current and steady lust for old-timey string band music, Portland’s Flat Mountain Girls are in demand! A real hootin’ tootin’ hot-timey in the old town tonight!”
Willamette Week – September 2004
“The Flat Mountain Girls’ down-home American bluegrass will have you hankering for a porch, a rocking chair and a jug of home brew. These three ladies really get into it, breathing excitement into their mix of traditional and original songs.”
Oregonian A&E – January 2004
“The Flat Mountain Girls are known for tight harmonies and onstage exuberance that may even include some spirited clogging, though the audience will likely be busy dancing, too.”
Victory Review – July 2003
“You’d swear you turned back the clock some 70 or 80 years and had been transported to the hills of West Virginia or Kentucky. The quick double time fiddle and banjo rhythms quickly will have every toe tapping.”
Willamette Week – March 2003
“Flat Mountain Girls – It’s some of that corn-slurping old-time craziness, this time psycho-conducted from ’30s Appalachia by three clogging, harmony-singing female maniacs.”
– Zach Dundas – Editor
Portland Tribune – March 2002
“The Flat Mountain Girls are one of the busiest bands on the Port land old-time circuit. Accompanying themselves on fiddle, banjo and guitar, this trio of women in their 20s and 30s brings their ‘foot-stompin’, endearing act to venues such as The Kennedy School and The White Eagle. Dressed in vintage square dance garb and cowgirl boots, Lisa Marsicek, Caroline Oakley and Rachel Gold yodel and harmonize their way through upbeat folk and gospel songs. The tempo slows down for the occasional ballad.” [more]