Down Harmony Road – Vol. 52 #2 Summer 2008 Sing Out!

Ragged But Right is the Toronto-based husband-wife duo of Arnie Naiman and Kathy Reid-Naiman Their previous recorded work has included a pair of fine old time banjo duet volumes with their longtime partner Chris Coole released under the title 5 Strings Attached (Merriweather 01and 02). While the second of these volumes featured a few vocals among the mostly instrumental fare, Down Harmony Road is a collection of fourteen old time songs and country ballads drawn mostly from the early days of country music, with a couple of contemporary originals that fit the bill. Fittingly enough among the tunes is the Riley Puckett classic from which they draw the band's name, while other tracks hearken back to the Delmore Brothers (“I A’in't Got Nowhere To Travel," "Blue Railroad Train"), the Carter Family ("Sailor On The Deep Blue Sea"), Uncle Dave Macon ("OnThe Dixie Bee Line") and Charlie Poole ("Leaving Home"). Of particular interest is their version of "A Mother's Last Words To Her Daughter," a song by 20's-era black street preacher and singer Washington Phillips that has resonated throughout and been recorded over the years in many corners of the folk music world.

The Naimans are backed on several songs by a fine cast that includes Chris Coole and Ken Whiteley, but they're wise enough not to let the instrumentation get in the way. The beauty of these songs is that they lend themselves well to the simple, direct harmony and treatment the Naimans give them, and it's their singing that seems to prove the old adage that if you listen closely enough, the song will tell you what it wants. John Lupton


Down Harmony Road – The Old Time Herald June / July 2008 Volume 11, Number 5

You can tell a lot about a CD by its cover. Here we see a portrait of Kathy Reid-Naiman and her husband Arnie Naiman, standing in front of a music store, with A. P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter on their left, the Delmore Brothers on their right, and, sitting in front, Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole, and Riley Puckett. You think, "This CD probably has some good singing-they certainly chose some great sources to learn from." And it doesn't just have some good singing-almost every song is a gem. In Canada, even in the southern part, winter comes early and stays late. A couple from Toronto who enjoys singing and playing old-time music will have the chance to work out arrangements carefully, choosing vocal harmonies and instrumental parts to make the song sound Iovely. These arrangements (and their instrumental breaks) sound effortless, which means, of course, that effort was spent in getting to that point. Hearing some of these songs inspired me to go to our CD collection and check out some of the originals, to see what has been added and taken away. "Leaving Home," which I first heard done y the New Lost City Ramblers long before I heard Charlie Poole's original, sounds great as a duet. ( Arnie's three finger banjo playing isn't bad, either.) Riley Puckett's "Ragged but Right" also works well with two voices. Even more interesting is their method for rendering Delmore Brothers songs: instead of the standard brother configuration of lead voice and close tenor harmony only a few notes above, Kathy sings lead, while Arnie sings the tenor harmony an octave lower. They use the same system for Whitey and Hogan's "Gosh, I MissYou All the Time"-a wonderful song and my favorite of the CD. The Carter Family's "Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea" was done with two close voices. While I miss A. P.'s bass from the original, this too works well as a duet. I also appreciate that they learned these songs from the original recordings and point the listener to these recordings with their well-written and careful liner notes. All of the songs discussed above use simple harmonies, played using only the 1,4, and 5 chords, and harmonies using notes in those chords. However Arnie and Kathy also enjoy singing more complicated harmonies-like the ones that the Boswell Sisters of the 1930s used for songs like "Dinah." They said, "In our version, since there are only two of us, we do a bit of vocal part switching to cover all the bases." And they do it well. They also do two songs with five voices: "A Nose Full of Nickels" and "Harmony Road," adding the three singers of Finest Kind to their two voices. The 1930s pop songs (and the recently composed "Harmony Road") are nice, but I most enjoyed the simpler harmonies of the duets. Even if you think you know all of these songs and would probably prefer the original recordings to any possible modern cover you ought to buy this CD. It's worth listening to. Furthermore, for folks who enjoy the old-time songs but are unable to appreciate the old recordings (because of the primitive production values and/or the more stilted old-time vocal styles ), this is an excellent CD choice.

Pete Peterson


Down Harmony Road – Canadian Folk Music Vol. 41.4

.They are definitely down Harmony Road, and not up Harmony Creek
To anyone who is fascinated by the sound of two-part harmony, this is an extremely welcome issue, and it is to be hoped that there will soon be more than one Ragged But Right CD to listen to.

in "Blue Railroad Train", in which the female voice sang the harmony, to my ears it seemed that the harmony dominated the melody. Their rendition of the Boswell Sisters' "Dinah" is noteworthy for the transformations that went into its arrangement: first the Boswell Sisters' jazzy trio harmonies were learned from the recording, and then these were adapted as male-female duet harmony.

The CD is built around the duet harmonies of Ragged But Right, drawing from the Delmore Brothers (two tracks), Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, Riley Puckett, the Boswell Sisters, Uncle Dave Macon, and others. The harmonies on most of the original recordings were not male-female duets, and Ragged But Right do not aim at recreation of the originals (as the New Lost City Ramblers sometimes did), but rather at reinterpretation in a manner consistent with the spirit of the originals. This is illustrated in their renditions of the Delmore Brothers songs, in which the male-female split causes the voices to be farther apart than in the Delmores' versions. ln "I Ain't Got Nowhere To Travel", with the female voice singing the melody, this worked extremely well;

Ragged But Right is the duo of Kathy Reid-Naiman and Arnie Naiman, both of whom have been involved in the folk music community of the Toronto area for decades, Kathy being especially known for her children's recordings and Amie for his clawhammer banjo playing. Down Harmony Road is their first recording as a duo. The fourteen tracks on the CD include ten from the old-time string band tradition, two in jazz style dating from several decades back, and two contemporary songs, including Rick Speyer's "Harmony Road", from which the CD draws its name. On two tracks, including "Harmony Road", Ragged But Right are joined vocally by Finest Kind (Ann Downey, Shelley Posen, Ian Robb), and on a few more they are joined instrumentally by several musicians, including Ken Whiteley, but on fully nine of the cuts Ragged But Right perform by themselves. The duo takes its name from a raucous Riley Puckett recording, the duo's interpretation of which is included on the CD.

Jim Grabenstetter, Calgary, Alberta


Down Harmony Road – County Sales / David Freeman

Here’s a solid and very enjoyable 14-track album primarily composed of old time duet songs by Canadians Arnie Naiman and Kathy Reid-Naiman. Several other picker friends join them here and there (including Chris Coole on banjo on a very nice version of LOUISVILLE BURGLAR), but for the most part it’s just good duet singing simply but effectively accompanied by two guitars or guitar & banjo. There’s a good selection of songs, with especially nice versions of BLUE RAILROAD TRAIN, AIN’T GOT NOWHERE TO TRAVEL, and SAILOR ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA. It’s attractively packaged, with a neat cover drawing of famous old time artists including the Delmore Bros., the Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole, Riley Puckett—and of course the Naimans: nice idea and nicely executed