CD Review

Northern Journey, A guide to Canadian Music

Paul Haslem

(Contemporary; Traditional; Celtic; Dulcimer; Christmas)

Paul Haslem, who resides in Fordwich, Ontario, has been playing the hammered dulcimer for over fifteen years. He first saw a dulcimer--the world's oldest form of percussive stringed instrument--in a museum. Since building his first dulcimer and learning to play it, he has become internationally known as a dulcimer performer and craftsman. Haslem, who is also a story teller, performs at concerts, festivals, markets, and craft shows. He loves to have people try out the dulcimer and ask questions about the instrument, so if you happen to be where Haslem is performing, drop by for a chat.

Haslem's first two CD's are Step Out Of Time (1992) and Dulcimer Traditions (1994). These beautiful albums capture the special magic of hammered dulcimer--the warbly, chorus-like effect that comes from its paired strings that are not exactly the same length. Both albums wear well, though Dulcimer Traditions is the slightly more polished of the two. These could very quickly become two of the favourite albums in your collection. On Step Out of Time Haslem is accompanied by Glenn Chatten, guitar and tablas; Kate Cushing, cello; Terri Burns, vocals; and Rob Geisler, beaded percussion. Additional musicians on Dulcimer Traditions are John Bigelow, arch guitar; Mary Anderson, Celtic harp; and Ken Brown, guitar, flute, keyboards, bass, mandolin, and accordion.

Haslem's music caught the ear of the American label Sugo Music, and he has now appeared on two Sugo releases, his own New Celtic Moon (1996) and a Christmas ensemble album An Acoustic Christmas (1997). Sugo is a New Age style label and this has influenced the way Haslem has been recorded. His hammered dulcimer has been augmented with a contemporary tapestry of moody sounds similar to Enya recordings. The effect is pleasant but not as effective as the folkier recordings, Dulcimer Traditions and Step Out of Time.

Spirit of the Land (1998) returns Haslem to a folkier sound. From the opening "St. Jacob's Ramble" to the closing "Conestogo Waltz" the album is a testament to the whimsical musicality of the hammered dulcimer. Featuring rambles, waltzes, meanders, and even the traditional fiddle tune "Mosquito on the Iceberg" Spirit carries your spirit on a delightful musical journey that blends hammered dulcimer with guitar, tabla, flute, bassoon and tabla. With the exception of the fiddle tune, all the tunes were written by Haslem. As usual, Haslem's compositions are drawn from his locale and his travels, giving his music a distinct Canadian stamp. Produced by Paul Haslem and Ken Brown, additional musicians include Ken Brown, guitar, flute, mandolin; Hari Pal , tabla; Jeff Burke, bassoon; and Mark Agnew, percussion.

Copyright A9 1999, Gene Wilburn,

Northern Journey 2, Reference Press, 1998, 368pp. ISBN 0-919981-64-X, $28 Cdn may be ordered from your favourite bookstore or purchased directly from: Reference Press PO Box 70, Teeswater, Ontario, Canada N0G 2S0 Phone: 519-392-6634 Fax: 519-392-8043 Email:

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