Listening to Juniper’s 2005 release Stepping Stones is most definitely like stepping back through time into a medieval royal court while minstrels are performing.
Actually, maybe it’s more like enjoying a pint of stout in an Irish pub while listening to a band play a lively jig. Then again, perhaps it’s like hearing an Appalachian fiddler playing some classic bluegrass gem beneath starry skies, or a traditional country singer playing old-time music from a bygone era.
In fact, it’s all of these things.
Juniper’s Stepping Stones epitomizes the Celtic influence in American folk music. Old-time music reflects the culture of those Europeans who colonized America, particularly the music of the British Isles. That influence resonates down through the centuries, and Stepping Stones underscores its effects in the musical traditions that endure to this day.
Juniper’s members include Frances Pisacane, Jasmine Hart and Sarah Mitchell. Pisacane plays fiddle, octave violin, banjo, mandolin and percussion. Hart provides vocals and plays guitar and electric bass. Mitchell plays flute, penny whistle, recorders, hammered dulcimer and percussion.
The threesome blends genres seamlessly, creating an eclectic and unique listening experience. The track “Batchelders/Tam Lin,” for instance, intermingles a New England tune with a dramatic Irish reel. “Roslin Castle/Peerie Hoose Ahint the Burn” begins as a somber Scottish air and flawlessly evolves into a merry Shetland reel.
“Hole in the Sky” has a distinctly Americana flair to it and “Budapest Hotel,” the first track on the CD, possesses an almost devilish bluesy jazz quality to it. Closing out “Stepping Stones” is a Natalie McMaster tune, “David’s Jig,” paired with Rob Hayes’ “Paddy on the Landfill.”
Juniper derived its name from ancient Celtic lore that recounts how the pixies and fairies planted a juniper at the entrance to the Other World. Stepping Stones enables the listener to journey through portals in time as it reawakens the Celtic musical heritage that is a common denominator in much of America’s folk traditions.