COMPACT DISC REVIEW
Always Been a Rambler
Richard Egan, piano
Richard Egan Music (No number)
I’ve Always Been a Rambler / The Rainbow Trout / Cock Fight at a Hen Party / Green of Pine, Grey of Winter Sky, Flight of Geese / Tower Grove Rag / Waltz for a Winter Afternoon / Talk to Dinah / Dark Days / November Showers / United States March / The Bike Ride / The Dancer / Paddling the Missouri / Old Bill Jones / The Cradle / The Winds of Late Autumn / Summer Morning / A Prayer for Standing Rock.
Ragtime has been described as “America’s first truly original music,” and as such it has provided a base – a jumping off point, if you will – for musicians who have followed their muse into other forms such as jazz, novelty and even ultramodern fields. Richard Egan has well-established credentials, both as a composer and a performer of folk ragtime. On this CD he has utilized this background to blaze a new, less-traveled path: adapting the piano to the genre of early fiddle tunes.
Egan has provided brief glimpses of this focus on his previous CDs, as each one contains at least one of his adaptations of a traditional folk tune. Other hints were his retirement from his day job, his subsequent devotion of his “new life” to music, and his membership as a pianist in a local string band. With this, his latest recording, he goes full bore in that direction and the results are interesting, to say the least.
His one true rag, Tower Grove Rag, is a great one and a worthy addition to one’s repertoire (see below*), but other than an underpinning of syncopation in many of the selections, there is no other real ragtime on this disc. Instead, there are lovely waltzes, lush tone poems, lively hoedown tunes and even an achingly beautiful elegy (The Cradle), all of which are to be explored and enjoyed. My personal favorites, in addition to the title tune, were Cock Fight at a Hen Party, Talk to Dinah and The Bike Ride, all of which had that infectious “hoedown fiddle” sound, although the waltz The Rainbow Trout certainly caught my attention.
If you are a die-hard ragtime devotee, then this album is probably not for you. However, if you like quality piano music with an emphasis on early Americana, then this CD will not disappoint. The cover artwork is captivating, the recording quality is flawless and the liner notes provide useful insights into the genesis of each composition. Richard Egan in his new life is pioneering new musical territory. It would not be surprising to see others follow his lead.
Available for $15.00 postpaid from Richard Egan, 3943 Hartford St., St. Louis, MO 63116. (*Also available for $25.00 postpaid from the same address is a folio containing all the scores of the compositions.)