The Mando Mafia: Live at the Prism Coffeehouse
Reprinted from the July 1992 issue of The Daily Clog
I first heard the Mando Mafia at Galax in 1990, where their single-night
performance in the band competition was not well received by the
management (they broke at least four contest rules, including performing
without a fiddle, banjo, or guitar). The crowd, however, went wild
over their rendition of Stone's Rag. Although they were disqualified
in that contest, they have done much better in other venues. They
went on to win second place in the non-traditional band competition
at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop WV in
1991. This year, they released their first recording, made during
a performance at the Prism Coffeehouse in Charlottesville.
This recording typifies what I think are two striking differences
between the D.C. area old-time music scene and the Charlottesville
scene: the music you hear in jam sessions is more eclectic in Charlottesville;
and mandolins are MUCH more popular there. Appalachian string band
tunes are well represented in the Mando Mafia's repertoire, but
so are Tex-Mex music and the music of David Grisman. The old-time
tunes chosen for this recording are ones that should get more play,
including Tomahawk, Last Chance, and Three Thin Dimes, to name three.
The Tex-Mex tunes bring to mind the summer of 1990, when Scott Mathis
of Albuquerque came East for the festivals and brought some hot
tunes with him.
All of it is performed with the rousing enthusiasm that is typical
of the Mando Mafia's live performances and festival jam sessions.
Kelly Perdue is a hot mandolin player with the fastest fingers in
old-time music. Playing fiddle tunes note for note on the mandolin
is one of his specialties, which landed him first prize in mandolin
at the festival in Mt. Airy NC earlier this month. Lew Prichard
is powerful and enthusiastic on the mandolin, and plays the hell
out of these great tunes. Pete Marshall, who also plays the mandolin,
adds depth and an exotic sound to the ensemble when he plays the
octave mandolin. Bill Giltinan, Rick Friend, and Vaughan Mairs complete
the ensemble with tight harmonies and solid rhythm. I liked this
recording because I know these guys, and I admire their approach
to music. They put all their heart into their playing and they work
hard to get the right sound. This recording reminds me of why I
like to hang around them at festivals: they are likely to have the
hottest jam session in the entire campground!