Biography  -  Reviews & Awards  -  WCQS Public Radio  -  T'ai Chi

Reviews and Awards

"powerful, sweet and subtle" — Old Time Herald
" master instrumentalist..." — Boston Globe
" virtuoso!" — Asheville Citizen Times

Bound to Have a Little Fun
24 Fiddle Tunes for Dulcimer

CD for Sale

Reviewed by:
Neal Walters, Dulcimer Players News

A new release by North Carolina's Don Pedi always contains an implicit but no less ironclad guarantee of a bumper crop of rare and beautiful old fiddle tunes, played with incredible taste and skill at anything from modest to actual burn-down-the-barn fiddle tempos. Bound to Have a Little Fun is no exception and features Don's solo mountain dulcimer on twenty four fiddle tunes he has collected through osmosis over the years from various old-time fiddlers, most notably Bruce Greene of Yancey County, North Carolina, with whom Don plays regularly. Greene has influenced many younger fiddlers with what Don describes as an older-generational style and a seemingly endless repertoire of tunes.

Don's virtuoso dulcimer interpretations of these rare old tunes should open many eyes and ears to the possibilities of the instrument. Don's arrangements are deceptively simple and straightforward. On two numbers he plays a prototype fretless oak dulcimer; this produces the slippery sliding sound usually associated with a slide guitar and is quite appealing. Many of these tunes are usually played in open tunings on the fiddle with lots of dronal harmonies and sympathetic resonating strings. Since these are characteristic strengths of the dulcimer as well, it shouldn't be very surprising that these tunes are potentially great dulcimer tunes. In fact, this would probably be common knowledge if more people possessed Don's flawless sense of rhythm and timing, his understanding of the essence of the tune, and his ability to stay relaxed and focused while playing faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. Unfortunately for the likes of us ordinary mortals, these appear to be gifts that are bestowed on very few. simply put, his playing is stunning in every respect. Tunes include Rose in the Mountain, Old Christmas, Speed of the Plow, Bound to Have a Little Fun, Steppin' in the Parlor, Bullfrog on a Puncheon Floor. — Neal Walters

Mountain Views
Twenty Fiddle Tunes for Dulcimer
CD for Sale

Reviewed by:
Molly Tenenbaum, Old Time Herald

This tape [previously on tape, now available on CD] is exactly what the title says: fiddle tunes played on the mountain dulcimer. Don Pedi, who plays in the traditional strumming style where the high string is used for noting and the other strings are used as drones, presents many well known tunes, and is accompanied by the strong guitar back-up of Hilary Dirlam Generally, Pedi first plays the tune, establishing a standard on which he then builds variations. Sometimes he'll play a harmony instead of a melody, or perhaps add a syncopation or a different rhythmic approach. Within this framework, Pedi finds plenty of variety to keep the tunes interesting, and he doesn't try to stretch the tune or the instrumental style farther than they can comfortably go. By choosing tunes that are already popular and well-known, Pedi focuses attention on the sound of his instrument and on his particular rhythmic and melodic choices. On "Arkansas Traveler," he begins with a swingy rolling rhythm, and in successive playings he enlivens this with more and more notes and single strums. He uses these single strums also on "Rattlesnake Bit the Baby," where they seem to approximate short Georgia-style fiddle bow strokes. Contrasts between phrases built of quarter notes and phrases built of sixteenth-notes provide interest, though occasionally as in "Old Joe Clark," the notey variation seems a bit contrived. There is no build-up; instead, all of a sudden, we move from a strong tune with a good back beat into a cascade of notes that doesn't seem quite related to the tune. Still, the melodic variations create intriguing harmonies as the melody string rings against the drones and even the far-fetched variations make good listening. Pedi paces these tunes well, and sometimes the choice of tempo gives the tune a new life. I especially enjoyed the loping, sweet versions of "Rock the Cradle Joe" and "Down the Road."

Some tunes at first seem to be odd choices for dulcimer, particularly "Breaking Up Christmas," which hasn't much of a melody and seems a more appropriate tune for a fiddle, with all its options of bowing and rhythm. But I am persuaded that much more is possible on the mountain-style dulcimer then I ever thought: Pedi plays the tune with wonderful drive, and the tune has a lot of excitement, especially when he plays the low part on the low strings and gets a slight growling effect. Although most of the tunes are well-known, "Whistling Before Breakfast" and Bear Creek Hop" are more unusual, and information about them on the tape insert would be welcome. "Whistling Before Breakfast" might possibly incorporate elements of "Whistling Rufus," and Bear Creek Hop is, I think a western style "Buffalo Gals" from the Collins family of Oklahoma. The information with the cassette is minimal, but for the most part, the music speaks for itself. In general, this tape does not explore unusual versions of tunes, unexpected arrangements or obscure sources. Instead, if offers some very fine dulcimer playing, and it demonstrates that the traditional mountain dulcimer can be at once powerful, sweet, and subtle. — Molly Tenenbaum

Saturday Night
Don Pedi and Friends
CD for Sale *
Album Liner Notes (1982)
The first time I heard Don Pedi was in a midnight jam session at Fiddler's Grove, a fiddle contest in Union Grove North Carolina. I couldn't believe my ears or eyes! There was this guy sitting on a Coleman cooler in the moonlight playing a dulcimer note for note with the hottest fiddlers around. Not only was he packing the tune full of "fiddle notes," his rhythm was akin to a free wheeling, belly-to-the-ground bow shuffle! We played all night. Since that first meeting years ago, I've watched Don Pedi make quite a name for himself as the man who really plays the dulcimer. He fiddle-picks it. This album shows that virtuosity. It captures the magic of music among friends, and brings back all the memories of that moonlit Saturday night. — David Holt
* Saturday Night, Don Pedi and Friends has been combined with Don's 1989 recording: Mountain Magic. Saturday Night Magic contains all the tracks from both of these earlier releases on a single CD.

Reviewed by:
Shari Ajamian, Rounder Records Roundup (1982)

From down home to you, this all-instrumental record is full of mountain air, Irish mystery, and evokes couples waltzing delicately around the dance floor. First of all, it is a dulcimer record. Don Pedi, a northern-grown boy with a southern soul, keeps amazing people with his mastery of the dulcimer. Second, it is a record of friends who have turned their many hours of playing together into a finely orchestrated, well-rounded collection of traditional tunes from southern America and Ireland.

There are no real surprises, except in Pedi's versatility on the instrument; as melody instrument, back-up, solo, or within a string-band setting. The record abounds with weaving harmonies; this version of "Colored Aristocracy" sounds as though it began life in Virginia and ended up in the bayou. The Irish tunes, particularly "The Butterfly," are made more beautiful by Keith Zimmerman's guitar playing. All of the musicians featured here are excellent, and they play together beautifully. One suspects that they really are friends. Throughout, the dulcimer adds an almost unidentifiable quality rather like the sound Tinkerbell would make if she could hum in several octaves. It is not as present as it might be, except in "Saturday Night," where it is featured prominently and sounds like Doc Watson's guitar. This record is well-produced, clean, and has that good-timey sound throughout. We can look forward to Badger Records 1002 - perhaps with a few songs interspersed for those of us who can hum for only so long at a stretch. — Shari Ajamian

Reviewed by:
Bill Spence, Andy's Front Hall (1983)

Don Pedi is the only person I know who can play fiddle tunes note for note, fast and furious, in the best Southern fiddle style, complete with the rhythmic "shuffle" feel to it. It's not just a gimmick, and the music here is for real. I'm not sure how he does it all, but it works.
— Bill Spence

Reviewed by:
Jan Spell, Flute Network

Real music is a rare treat; at it's best music is a kind of magic that can't be legitimately described in words, but you know in your heart and soul when you've heard it. Don Pedi and Friends is that kind of music/magic.

Let me tell you a little about Don Pedi. He plays traditional style dulcimer, but not like you've ever heard it before. First, he chooses good fiddle tunes, and he plays them on dulcimer with all the notes and fiddle-stops of the hottest fiddle players around -- and fully up to speed! Then he adds a "rhythmic shuffle feel" that is so persuasive and inviting that it's hard to resist the urge to get up and dance, right there wherever you are. (Technically, I've heard it described by those who would know that Don's "right [strumming] hand plays the tune just as much as the left [which fingers the notes on the strings] and this gives his tunes a clear sound rather then the drone-ish, inflexible wall of sound often associated with dulcimer music...".) Secondly, Don knows how to throw a good party -- musically speaking. His friends are some of the best most highly respected musicians in the business. In "Saturday Night", it's clear that there is virtuosity to spare which frees him/them up to really have fun both with and through the music.

It is easy to imagine this group of superbly skilled friends comfortably gathered on the front porch of somebody's cabin in the Smokey Mountains and having a grand old time of it! My favorite is Pretty Tune in D, and the sense of humor in the Ook Pick Waltz is wonderful! Actually, each time I listen to this tape, i find some new nuance or musical phrase that makes me smile. And, in fact, I have found that however down or depressed I may be feeling, I have yet to get so low that his music couldn't reach me; it has never failed to lift my spirits. The spirit, energy, and joy in all of Don Pedi's music is as genuine as it is contagious. It is with great pleasure that I recommend them to you. — Jan Spell


Between the years of 1974 and 1982 Don won first place in most every dulcimer contest he entered throughout the South East and on up into New England. The same is true of the string bands he was in.

1974 - Don entered his first contest, at Fiddler's Grove in North Carolina, and won first place. By 1980 he had won so many contests at Fiddler's Grove that he was certified "Master Dulcimer Player" and retired from future competitions.

1989 - Most Outstanding Performer at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival in Ashville, North Carolina. This is the oldest on going Festival of it's kind in the country.
Founded in 1928 by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, it was the model for the National Folk Festival

1998 - Bascom Larmar Lunsford Award. The Lunsford Award is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the folk traditions in the southern mountains.

1999 - Memphis Dulcimer Festival Award
For his uncompromisingly traditional approach to playing the dulcimer, his mastery of North Carolina's traditional repetoire, and for his nurturance of traditional material through teaching, broadcasting and presentation.

2003 - It was indeed an honor to represent Appalachia and the dulcimer at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC.