Grey Cat on the Tennessee Farm by  Peter Feldmann and The Pea Patch Quintet
(Hen Cackle HC-504), 2005,  

by Joe Ross, Bluegrass Now

The first major star of WSM's Grand Ole Opry, Uncle Dave Macon (1870-1952)
“The Dixie Dewdrop” (from Smart Station, Tennessee) once introduced “Coming
Around the Mountain” by asking, ‘Well, Buddy, How you feeling? Feeling
Right. Well, if you ain't right, git right, and let your conscience be your
guide. Because I'm going to play with more hetergeneous, constopolitan,
double flavor and unknown quality than usual. Make it light on yourself.”
With a similar mindset and sure to get you smiling, Peter Feldman & the Pea
Patch Quintet’s album is a strong bluegrass tribute to the old-time songs of
Uncle Davy. Bluegrassers should take note of how well these kinds of songs
adapt to the genre. Rather than some half-baked folk revivalist effort, the
songs were conceptually arranged with bluegrass instrumentation, in fact a
few banjos, as well as a variety of vocal stackings. I’m sure Uncle Dave
would be proud of the “little hot runs on the banjo” (some with touches of
harmony), along with all the other fine musicianship here.

There’s also plenty of quaint advice on the CD too. In “Jordan is a Hard
Road to Travel,” for example, “I don't know but I believe I'm right, the
autos ruined the country, let's get back to the horse and buggy, and try to
save some money.” Not such a bad idea, I’d say, especially if you live in
So. Cal.! One of the spoken narratives from Uncle Dave’s own commentaries
declares, “King David and King Solomon lived merry, merry lives for they had
many many wives, but when old age overtook them, they became very calm, King
Solomon wrote the proverbs and David wrote the Psalms.”

Hot dog, buddy let's go! Whether singing about rabbits, dogs, deer, moose,
cats, kittens, cattle, horses, hogs, sheep, ducks, geese or roosters,
Feldmann has a genial barnyard manner. He also plays his Everett Kettler
mandolin or clawhammer banjo (on “Deer Chase”) with cool confidence and
composure. Inspired by that “Rabbit in the Pea Patch” [eating all day], the
accomplished quintet includes Dan Crary (guitar), Bill Bryson (bass), Wayne
Shrubsall (clawhammer banjo), Dennis Caplinger (5-string and 6-string banjo)
and Byron Berline (fiddle). Bryson even plays some clawhammer gourd banjo
too on the intro and outro that open and close the project. Even though some
of the musicians were not initially that familiar with Uncle Dave’s music,
they took right to it as if they were from “the land of hog and hominy,
pumpkin and possum, and where whiskey is made out of corn, and women don't
smell like talcum powder.” Who would’ve thunk that these guys are from
California? Actually Feldmann was born and raised in Switzerland and didn’t
emigrate to the U.S. until after World War II. His love for old-time and
bluegrass music was cultivated as a radio show producer, record label
manager and bluegrass performer (with The Very Lonesome Boys).

Feldmann’s goal was to capture some of the excitement that Uncle Dave
produced in his 1927 New York session with his band, The Fruit Jar Drinkers.
There are solo, duo, trio and quartet vocals, as well as a couple old-time
fiddle tunes (Rye Straw, Forked Deer). Peter and the Pea Patch Quintet
energetically recorded as a group with little overdubbing or multiple takes.
Or are they known as the “Grey Cat Quintete” as spelled out on the back of
the CD? Song-by-song musician credits are not in the CD jacket, but you can
find them on-line. To help preserve Uncle Dave’s music, I’d also recommend
that Peter upload the lyrics he sings, especially for novelty
tongue-twisters like “Deer Chase.” I wonder how much the folkloric process
has resulted in alteration of Macon’s original lyrics over the years.

You can tell that these guys had a frolicking, fun-filled, festive time
making this earthy album. They keep the offerings up-tempo, and the
down-home ambiance fits the songs like a glove. While the vocal range
required of a song like “Johnny Gray” challenges Peter a tad, it’s nearly
impossible to listen to romping songs like “Roll Down the Line” or “Old
Plank Road” or “Take Me Home Poor Julia” without tapping toes or singing
along. While many have similar tempos and joyous sentiments, the former is
probably one of my favorites because it has plenty of shared instrumental
breaks and quartet singing. With 14 songs and 5 brief narrative
commentaries, the CD re-creates a set of music as Uncle Dave might’ve played

In the early-1920, Macon was over 50 years old when the advent of trucking
forced him into a career change from mule-drawn freight delivery to
entertainment. He claimed to know nothing about the “scientifical parts of
music,” but he could certainly play. Macon made nearly 200 recordings, and
Feldmann & Co. barely scratch the surface of his repertoire. While they
concentrate on those best adapted to bluegrass, it would’ve been nice to
include more from his gospel (e.g. "Just One Way to the Pearly Gates"),
blues (e.g. "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy"), and novelty (e.g. "She's Got
the Money, Too") favorites. Perhaps a second volume is forthcoming. We can
only hope. A portion of the album sales goes to the Macon Family to help
preserve his Murfreesboro, Tn. gravesite. If you miss hog, hominy, pumpkin
and red gravy, then I’m sure that Uncle Peter Feldmann (a kind of Uncle Davy
reincarnated) would love to sell you a copy of this album.