“That which once was lost has been found. Nikos Pappas hit all the right notes in resuscitating a diverse parade of tunes drawn from the East Kentucky coalfields, the Ohio River cradle, the central Kentucky bluegrass, and the more Midwestern West Kentucky. This is a spectacular lineup of fascinating versions of tunes, some of which are generally well known and others that are deliciously esoteric.
“Drunkard’s Hiccoughs” is an all-too-real portrait staggering along with nuanced meter changes that mirror an inebriated amble. “Hell and Scissors” bores its way into your head with a tonality laced with poignant wildcat notes that haunt the borders between major and minor. “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek” strips away years of interpretations and recordings by restoring Fiddler Shade Slone’s Civil War-era tune to its original vivid solo strut.
Pappas’s impeccable technique coupled with his keen historical and narrative insight has crafted a rare recording that brings the dead to life and conjures the past in the present through absolutely apt interpretations in which tone, time, and articulation are individually matched to the peculiarities of each tune. The accompanying musicians, Travis Stuart, Kevin Kehrberg, and Jeff Keith blend in transparent counterpoint as well. Pictured on the cover is the tale of the fiddler who kept the wolves at bay by playing fiddle all night—no doubt that Pappas would have chased those wolves three counties away with the vibrant playing on this June Appal recording.”
– Ron Pen, Director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, University of Kentucky
“Nikos Pappas’ Lost in the Lowlands showcases a great fiddler doing what he does best. Twenty-one tunes drawn from commercial recordings of the 1920s and 30s as well as more recent field recordings introduce us to the incredible regional and stylistic variety that once characterized Kentucky fiddling. On this album, Nikos pays homage to his sources while following his own instincts to elaborate the tunes in his own unique way. From eccentric archaic solo pieces to parlor pieces, from lilting notey breakdowns to an Ed Haley tour de force, never has such a variety of tone and feeling been achieved on one CD. Stellar accompaniment by Kevin Kehrberg, Jeff Keith, and Travis Stuart in various combinations provide a solid but unobtrusive platform for Nikos’ exquisite tone and technique. Recorded and mastered by Bruce Bartlett, the sound quality is excellent – you can hear every note, slur, and insult. Whether for simple listening pleasure or for learning some of the gems of Kentucky fiddling from one of the masters, this collection is a major addition to the evolving world of grassroots recordings coming from Kentucky.”
– John Harrod, Kentucky fiddler & music historian
1. L & N Rag
2. Brushy Fork of John’s Creek
3. Last of Sizemore
4. Going Back to Old Kentucky
5. Billy Lost in the Lowlands
6. Hell and Scissors
7. Ladies in the Ballroom
8. Forked Deer
9. Drunkard’s Hiccoughs
10. Crooked John
11. Mexican Waltz
13. Nancy Dawson
14. Big Sweet Taters in Sandy Land
15. Next to Your Mother, Who Do You Love?
16. Bluegrass Meadows
18. All I’ve Got is Done Gone
19. Humphrey’s Jig
20. Old Christmas
21. Turkey Gobbler
Nikos Pappas: fiddle, piano
Jeff Keith: guitar, mandolin, banjo ukulele, banjo mandolin
Kevin Kehrberg: bass, guitar
Travis Stuart: banjo
This project would not be possible for the generosity of Jeff Keith, Kevin Kehrberg, and Travis Stuart. You all really made this record come together. I cannot thank you all enough.
Recorded and Mixed by Bruce Bartlett of Weaverville, NC
Front cover painting by John Haywood: www.haywoodarts.com
Special thanks to and inspiration from Rayna Gellert, John Harrod, Ron Pen, Donny Rogers, Paul David Smith, Harriett Walker, Jesse Wells, Bob Zuercher, and the many other friends whom I miss in Kentucky and elsewhere.
This record is dedicated to my grandmother Kathryn Walker (1920-2013), one of my muses.