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"AppalAsia is a fantastic trio hailing from Pittsburgh PA, consisting of Jeff Berman on dulcimer, baritone dulcimer, vibraphone, percussion, and voice, Mimi Jong on erhu, zhonghu (both Chinese bowed instruments), accordion, and voice, and Susan Powers on banjo and voice. Their new album CARGO also includes Jeff Grubbs on bass. While CARGO is not a dulcimer album per se, Jeff Berman’s sensitive fingerstyle is evident throughout the recording. Jeff is also the producer and the composer of five of the originals on this CD.         I heard AppalAsia recently in a house concert in Northeast Ohio and a few things really stood out for me. First, Jeff’s dulcimer and Susan’s clawhammer banjo seem to merge as one, and I often had trouble hearing the individual parts; the rhythmic flow and groove is really outstanding. Second, Susan has a voice you won’t forget, at once earthy and bluesy as it is mysterious and haunting. Two of her songs which have these qualities are “Up and Down The River” and “Halloween Waltz”. Third, Mimi’s expert erhu playing adds a wonderful, very expressive dimension to their overall sound, and to my ears, it doesn’t sound as exotic or Eastern as I expected. This is hard to explain, but the trio just sounds totally right- like they have been playing together for centuries. They said at the concert that they all had set out to write music specifically for this unique ensemble, and to me, they have succeeded brilliantly                                                         Jeff is a gifted composer and the opening track “Cargo” is a real standout for me. There is an intro that establishes the rhythmic foundation for the piece; first on the dulcimer, then the banjo flows in, and when the erhu comes in for the main theme, it just completely captures your attention. Other pieces of Jeff’s that I especially liked were “Early Warning” and “Dark Sky City”. Some of the time signatures and the melodic phrasing on these tunes is a bit challenging for my ears, but it is extremely refreshing and inspiring; especially when I realize it’s coming from a mountain dulcimer! Jeff is also an accomplished jazz vibraphonist and percussionist, and his composing style draws naturally from the jazz influences.                                                                                                                                              Jeff has developed a very unique style of playing on the dulcimer. I don’t think I’ve heard any other dulcimer player with such a subtle and gentle approach, though the late, great Roger Nicholson certainly comes close. Jeff uses the subtle dynamic range of the dulcimer so skillfully, at times almost “feathering” the strings with the bare fingers of his right hand. Many of his tunes feature very quick, and cleanly executed, hammer-ons and pull-offs with the left hand, reminding me of Leo Kretzner’s amazing style among these lines.                                                                                                                                                          I highly recommend this CD. Jeff Berman is making an important contribution to the music of the mountain dulcimer both as a composer and a performer, and Cargo shows these contributions very well."                 Jerry Rockwell, Dulcimer Players News/ Winter 2016

 "Appalasia is one of the most innovative and musically exciting groups I have ever heard. The unusual combination of instruments creates such a joyous feeling and combines sophisticated composition with brilliant playing in a way that makes it all seem effortless. Those of us who sat and listened were all literally spell bound. Hearing the banjo played in new ways and the use of the traditional Chinese violin played with stunning virtuosity with Jeff Berman’s dulcimer was just what the world needs to hear. This wasn’t cross-over or fusion. This was great music making that needs no label.”                                                
David Amram, NERFA 2015

“...I find it immensely can be very evocative...this is somehow evocative of a place and/or time that doesn’t really exist...something mythical or existing in imaginative literature...”                                  Bob Studebaker, WDUQ

"Appalasia’s second album (CARGO) continues to seamlessly blend the Western strains of Jeff Berman’s dulcimer and Susan Powers’ banjo with Mimi Jong’s erhu and zhonghu (Chinese bowed instruments) to create something that reaches beyond the concept of genre hybrids. The trio, aided by bassist Jeff Grubbs, has a knack for taking folk-like melodies and expanding them with unique textures, shifting time signatures and arresting vocals. “Green Island,” a Mandarin Chinese song, starts slow and traditional, then shifts into a Western groove without losing the song’s hypnotic quality. Jong’s bowing gives “Up and Down the River” a rustic quality that fits the haunting Appalachian side of the trio. These melodies stick with you long after the songs finish."                                                      
Mike Shanley, Pittsburgh City Paper


“This trio create, perform, and record music that is unique and beautiful with its evocative eloquence and multitude of sound images ...Those of you familiar with the music of West Canadian groups Asza, Orchid Ensemble and Silk Road Music will find themselves in familiar territory because their approach is relatively similar to that of Appalasia in terms of instrumentation and overall sound, though it seems that Appalasia goes further in its melodic search and does not hesitate to give free rein to improvisation and emotional expression... Susan Powers singing often evokes that of the wonderful Gillian Welch ... “                               Dan Behrman, Le Magazine Son et Image

 “Appalasia performed a rich and hauntingly beautiful set of songs …”                                                           The Titusville Herald

“... such an elegant musical fusion...”                                              
Matthew Finch, Music Director, KUNM Radio, Albuquerque

“...glad to give some airtime to new music which doesn’t sound like everything else!”
 Tom Bingham, “General Eclectic”, WCVF-FM, SUNY Fredonia

“Appalasia is one of those experiments that happen when musicians from different back-grounds decide to try something different. It would be unfair to call it Chinese, or Appalachian, it was a hybrid of the two, done in the tradition of jazz.”                                                                                                                               Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) Blog

“It is very much the spiritual third element, that which combines sounds or styles, that is the ever-present and core inspiration that makes this new musical form work for this band...I could experience this aspect in each detail of their playing.”                                                                                                                       Gerald Van Waes, Radio Central Antwerp, Belgium



Hearts Of The Dulcimer/ Pod Cast


The GLASS BLOCK / Jeff Berman, Close-Up