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Reviews of "The Autoharp Album" by Harvey Reid

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Bluegrass Breakdown (2003) by Dave Higgs
Many thanks for sending us a copy of the "The Autoharp Album" and "The Artistry of the Six String Banjo," two of the most important CD's you've ever recorded, in my opinion, because they've done so much to alert folks to the beauty, subtlety and rich diversity of musical styles each instrument is capable of projecting ... especially in the hands of a master such as yourself.
I've been playing tunes from the six string banjo collection ever since its release back in '95. You've managed to coax an amazing number of sounds out of an instrument that I, quite frankly, had heretofore written off. Your versions of "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine," "The Cuckoo," "Suite for the Duchess" and others are just stunning. As is "The Autoharp Album," an aptly named title for your latest masterpiece since, it is THE autoharp album. If anyone doubts this instrument's depth, complexity, power and grandeur, this project will lay all such skepticism to rest. I've never heard anything quite like it before - in your hands the autoharp takes on old ballads, fiddle tunes, blues, ragtime, gospel and even classically tinged tunes with equal aplomb, taste and class. I especially enjoyed your takes on "Waltz of the Waves," "Down Yonder Medley," "The Flower of Loudon County," "Frankie and Johnny" and "Gathering the Harvest." It's truly not only a labor of love, but a work of art as well; a seminal album that I hope will spur a revival of interest in this often neglected instrument.

FACE Magazine by Dale Robin Lochman
Only a few people can make the autoharp sound orchestral, and York, Maine musician Harvey Reid is at the top of that list. The autoharp is one of those instruments that is at once fascinating and annoying. In the 1950s and ‘60s, a lot of elementary school teachers had them in their classrooms. They are easy to get a sound out of— you just press down the felt pads and you have a chord. Most songs that a teacher might want to teach you would have three chords. So, three buttons to push and you can play the autoharp, right? Well, no. So most Americans’ first introduction to this unlikely instrument was not all too pleasant.
In the late 1800s there was a craze of sorts—a proliferation of invented instruments, many of which had gimmick-y methods of making sound. From the pianolin to the autoharp, they were sold in catalogues and storefronts by the thousands. The autoharp was a novelty item, and was sold as such. But in the Appalachians, where modern American folk music was so strongly influenced, autoharps were incorporated into the music right along with the older traditional instrumentation, and made popular in a more seriously musical vein by the likes of “Pop” Stoneman and Kilby Snow, and eventually the Carter Family, Mike Seeger and Bryan Bowers.
Harvey Reid takes the autoharp seriously, as well, and has produced and performed an unexpected masterpiece in The Autoharp Album (2003 Woodpecker Records WP117CD). He has applied his characteristic attention to minute detail to the playing of the autoharp and coaxes a vituoso sound from the instrument. What results is a beautifully melodic and emotive recording that is wonderful listening. He transcends the muddiness that the autoharp can often render with a crisp chording technique and uncommon accuracy in plucking melodies within the chord.
To make the recording, Reid borrowed a variety of instruments from players all over the country, so the sound of the CD is correspondingly varied. From Civil War tunes to waltzes, from a hauntingly sad original to a Jimmy Rodgers song, Reid has gathered a truly eclectic collection and captured the wide range of sound and feeling just right.
Standing out for its just-plain-fun sound, “Peach Picking Time” by Jimmy Rodgers is a surprise on the autoharp for the number of chord changes it must involve! Reid picks up the frolicking mood of a trio of old time tunes in his “Down Yonder Medley” of “Yonder,” “The Old Spinning Wheel,” and “Redwing.” And plays the blues classic “Frankie and Johnny” with some chords that would surprise even an autoharp player.
“Maplewood March” is a Reid-penned tune named for the avenue in Portsmouth where he used to live; it has a perfect New England Country Dance feel to it. The medley of “Southwind” and “Simple Gifts” has a pensive and warm tone, as do the several hymns Reid recorded for this work.
The CD ends with “Let Your Light Shine on Me,” a traditional hymn played on an autoharp made in the 1880s by the original maker of autoharps, Charles Zimmerman. And this piece sounds just as old as that. A good way to end an album, with the reminder of the richness of American musical history contained therein.
Recording an entire CD of autoharp is an artistically spunky thing to have done, and it works like magic. With just a few guitar, vocal and fiddle embellishments in well-chosen places, the autoharp (along with its player) really remains the star of this recording throughout.

Sing Out (Nov 2003) by MD
This is Reid's first album to solely feature his mastery of, and ingenuity with, this uniquely American instrument. From the Carter Family to Kilby Snow, to his own sparkling instrumentals, Reid plays a wide range of music here, accompanied ably by David Surette on guitar and Joyce Anderson on fiddle. A must-have for Autoharp players, and a real jot to listen to for all! (MD)

Portsmouth Herald (June 2003) by Chuck Ginsburg
Harvey Reid’s "The Autoharp Album" is sublime. It challenges the virtuosity of Reid’s 17 or so other albums not just because an autoharp album is still rare but because the musicianship and production, soup to nuts, are so exquisite.
Devotees like Bryan Bowers and Reid are part of the instrument’s recent resurgence, and Reid’s contributions to the repertoire can only add to its popularity.
The autoharp, Reid tells us, is the only surviving member of many mechanical zithers that appeared in the late 1800s. Originally of central-European origin, the zither is struck or plucked. "The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary" describes it as having four or five melody strings over a fretboard, with 30 to 40 accompanying strings, all running the length of a flat, shallow resonator box.
We confess to being an unrepentant admirer of the Maine iconoclast’s talents, but we have listened repeatedly, and futilely, for that one weak link amid 73-plus musical minutes.
Flaws aren’t apparent, from the beguiling Reid instrumental, "Waltz of the Waves," redolent with the ocean, through the Carter Family’s "On the Sea of Galilee" and Reid’s evocative "The Coming of Winter," to the album’s glorious gospel coda, the familiar "Let Your Light Shine on Me."
Maybe you would prefer the re-recording of Reid’s "The Flower of Loudoun County" or David Franey’s "The Flowers of Saskatchewan." Favorites abound.
Reid ranges far and wide for material, tapping first his fertile imagination and then mining Appalachia, ragtime, polka, blues and the folk heritage of Ireland, Scotland and Norway.
Nine of 21 selections are Reid originals, with four tunes brand-new. Among the others, traditionals predominate. Only Jimmie Rodgers, "America’s Blue Yodeler" of the early 1900s, and Canadian Francey, wise choices both, break the mold.
Seventeen cuts are instrumental and, with the exception of incidental rhythm guitar and violin intrusions, the autoharp reigns supreme. Liner notes include a brief history of the instrument and period advertisements that describe "(a) good-natured musical instrument, ‘easy to play.’"
Acoustic purists, musicians and just plain fans alike should enjoy the whole package. Reid, ever the perfectionist, directed arrangements, production, engineering, and mixing with a master’s touch. The packaging is colorful, cohesive and instructive. Reid has not forgotten his trademark descriptions of the recording process, down to finger and thumb pick choices.
Bottom line, "The Autoharp Album," spare and gorgeous, is all about the autoharp and the prodigious talents of Harvey Reid.

Tradition Magazine (Sept 2003) by "Anyone interested in the autoharp should have this CD."

Autoharp Quarterly (NOV 2003)

"The Autoharp Album contains Harvey Reid's distinctive style at its best... It would be categorized appropriately as "Leave in CD Player- Don't File"

Radio Voce Spazio (Sept 2003) by Massimo Ferro (ITALY)

"...this last album of yours is another gem in your stunning musical career. I can only add that it was time someone dedicated a whole CD to such a beautiful and pleasant instrument that you play with an╩incredible virtuosity. As you can see from the alleged playlists, "The Autoharp Album" has been a favourite in my radio shows here at Radio Voce Spazio, and I still keep on playing it after several weeks from the release."