PRAISE FOR THREE MILE STONE’S DEBUT RECORDING:
“THREE MILE STONE
Three Mile Stone
Private Label 3MS001
“There’s something very uplifting in a performance that doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t have to in order to gain the listener’s attention. This debut recording by Three Mile Stone is a case in point. Featuring the talented trio of Erin Shrader (fiddle, vocals, mandolin), Richard Mandel (guitar, tenor banjo) and Marla Fibish (mandolin, accordion, tenor guitar, bocals) the performances are spirited without being too flashy and the vocals, as on Heather on the Moor are delightfully exuberant and flowing without being nauseatingly ‘mannered’ as is often the case with a lot of ‘folk’ singers these days. The group sounds as if they are having a great time in a relaxed atmosphere more than likely resulting from John Doyle’s production skills who also adds a splash of colour with his mandola on one track. I’m sure Doyle didn’t have too much of a problem coaxing the best out of the protagonists as each musician is thoroughly enjoying herself (himself) sparking off each other’s personalities without trying to be too clever. Restraint is a hard thing to master if you have a competitive nature but there is none of that in evidence here letting the strength of the melodies shine through as on Marla’s triplet led mandolin set-piece Wheels of the World. Not since the days I used to follow the early ‘acoustic’ Stockton’s Wing have I enjoyed an album that breathes life into traditional music without really trying.”
—Pete Fyfe, Maverick Magazine
“I think we may have the early favorites for the New Group of the Year Award here. What a lovely album.”
—LiveIreland, Dublin, Ireland
“THREE MILE STONE
Three Mile Stone
Private Label 3MS001
This is a sparkling gem of a disc, to be sure. Three Mile Stone is an intimate all-string (fiddle, mandolin, guitar) trio based in San Francisco, and this, their debut album, was produced by John Doyle. Although TMS is very much a string band of equal parts, the wonderful ringing tone of Marla Fibish’s mandolin seems to be the dominant timbre at first hearing, by a little more than a whisker. But first impression can still be deceptive – and in any case that’s no complaint, of course, when the musicianship is as scintillating as this (and that’s from all three players too, I mean!) There’s an abundantly infectious drive propelling Erin Shrader’s brilliantly fiery fiddle playing, which is ideally matched by Richard Mandel’s powerful guitar work, whether taking the form of a high-energy rhythmic input or a more intricate embellishment. And not only do the three musicians switch around the melody and backup roles with a natural virtuoso fluidity, but they also manage to vary the basic instrumental complement by the judicious addition of tenor banjo (Richard), button accordion or mandola or tenor guitar (Marla) or second mandolin (Erin) to the available armoury, with entirely winning results.
The tunes are delightfully tastefully managed (and crisply, cleanly recorded with all John’s trademark clarity and insight), with a joyous inherent gusto in the playing that still allows the phrasing to breathe and bring the melodies alive outside of the mere sounding of the notes in their correct sequence and tempo. Perhaps my favourite moments come with the delectable medley of jigs collected from box player Mary Rafferty (track 7) and the wonderful banjo/mandola interplay on Piper On Horseback, but I also rather liked the lazy barndance-and-reel combo (track 4), and the time Richard’s guitar gets to take the lead on Snug In A Blanket, which is neatly paired with a Quebecois version of a hop jig before dashing to the finishing line with Tommy Peoples’ reel. And then there’s the brief but dignified slow air Old Innishowan, which works well as a fiddle-and-guitar duet.
As if this were not enough, the CD’s ten excellent and varied instrumental offerings are interspersed with four well-presented songs, at least three of which furnish us with disc highlights (Marla’s tenderly expressive account of her own setting of Robert Service’s Song Of The Wage Slave; Erin’s fine “moment-choosing” unaccompanied rendition of Dark Is The Color, clearly influenced by her song-tutor the great Joe Heaney from Connemara; and a charming treatment of the tripping Heather On The Moor, also from Erin). And even though the combined set-list is drawn from the individual repertoires of each of the band members, the whole disc exudes a very real sense of unity, not least in the exemplary way the three work together.
As purveyors of Irish music go, Three Mile Stone are indisputably in the top bracket, and you’re seriously unlikely to come across a much more elegantly persuasive and genuinely uplifting small-ensemble record than their eponymous debut.”
—David Kidman, Living Tradition Magazine
“An elegant small‐ensemble recording. Some the best mandolin playing in Irish music.”
—Dennis Cahill (guitar virtuoso, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill)
“Three Mile Stone are three musical compatriots playing and singing sweet, soulful Irish music in the San Francisco Bay Area. Friends for many years, mandolinist Marla Fibish, fiddler Erin Schrader, and guitarist Richard Mandel formalized their musical comradeship as Three Mile Stone several years back, and music lovers are the better for it. There is an easy, trance inducing lilt to everything on this recording, even the driving (and they do drive!) tunes. Lots of love in these notes.
Lots of chops, too. Erin is a rare fiddler of taste and emotional tone with a sense of space and roots in her playing that is quite beguiling. And Richard is her match on guitar, with a lightning right hand and spot on chord choices. He is also a precise and powerful tenor banjo player. And Marla is a wonder on the mandolin; rhythmic beyond imagination, clear as a bell tone, great invention, lovely ornaments at just the right times and places, and a sureness and ease that allows the listener to relax and be carried away. She also has a deft touch on the accordion.
And I love their voices. Erin’s has character, ease, and beauty in equal measure, and she delivers Irish song with a laid back reverence that is skillful and soulful in its simplicity. She has done her mentor Joe Heaney proud. Richard’s harmony blend is perfect. And Marla has a voice that would melt the iciest heart – rich, strong, sweet and emotional. Their choice of songs suit their skills and the overall mood of the recording. Erin gives us a Heather on the Moor with appropriate echoes of Paul Brady and a gentle flowing feeling like a spring breeze on a fine day. She also sings Dark is the Color solo, and it is a gem, deceptively simple, and simply beautiful. Marla sings Last Winter was a Hard One, a song about hard times among immigrants, with just the right mix of acceptance and longing in her voice. She also does Song of the Wage Slave her setting of a Robert Service poem. We sink into her music and voice and the evocative, heartbreaking poetry – quite hypnotic. The arrangements are all lovely, and lovingly suited to the songs.
Three Mile Stone gives us their time honed versions of well known tunes. like their romping Wheels of the World/Queen of the Rushes/John Dwyer’s/Christmas Eve set, with inventive tune changes, great interplay between the instruments and a sense that they love playing together. They also play rarer gems like Brian Montague’s and Snug in a Blanket with great lift and nuance. The addition of a couple of Quebecois tunes, Michel Bourdelou’s Fleur de Mandragore, the traditional Gigue a Médée, and a french waltz, La Valse des Pastoriaux by Jackie Molard, adds just the right amount of gallic spice to complement the gaelic in the broth.
Pretty obvious that I quite enjoyed this recording. John Doyle is getting quite a name as a producer, and judging by his efforts here, it is very well deserved. This cd is a pure drop of pure music, and well worth the effort to acquire.”
—Kevin Carr, FolkWorks
“It actually began in the Bay Area back in the 1970’s. Until then, you were unlikely to hear Irish Traditional Music outside of New York, Boston or Chicago. You’d never have heard it at a public venue or on the radio, and if you weren’t Irish or of Irish descent you’d never be able to play it.
But it was in San Francisco that Joe Cooley connected with the local folk and Traditional musicians and Cooley’s Hippies were born. Joe was on a mission. He played for all who would listen and he taught any that could learn. It wasn’t long before Irish players of all nationalities and backgrounds were coming from San Francisco. They made their way across the country, to the pubs and the hubs of Irish Traditional Music. They played at the recognized folk festivals and venues across the US.
Joe Cooley’s students and their successors helped change the face of Irish Traditional Music in America, which is now an integral part of our cultural heritage.
And Joe’s work continues today.
Three Mile Stone members Marla Fibish, Erin Shrader and Richard Mandel play Irish Traditional Music with the respect and love that it deserves. But their artistry lies not only in their music but in their approach to presenting it as well. Their cd was recorded by Jim Nunally, produced by John Doyle, and mixed by Glenn Barratt of Morningstar Records, the cream of the crop.
They’ve created a work of art.
This is not a few tunes thrown together in someone’s basement. This is mandolin, fiddle , guitar and button accordion played, recorded and produced at the highest possible level. And the songs are a delight.
I love this stuff.”
—Billy McComiskey (Irish accordion legend)
“Serious work by very dedicated musicians has produced an excellent recording of Traditional Irish music and song. From the quality of the recording to the standard of musicianship, coupled with the choice of material, and the lovely playing and singing has produced a delightful recording.”
—James Kelley (Irish fiddle legend)
“Three Mile Stone is the deal, all right. In a time where everyone wants to stretch traditional music to the limits, there are groups like this who are dedicated to the music, itself. A wonderfully played album, produced by John Doyle, and performed by a tasty trio of real musicians and singers. If you really like Irish music, and don’t just say you do, get this album. A total winner, front to back. Your ears will thank you. A very thoughtfully and tastefully presented stunner.”
—Irish American News
“THREE MILE STONE
Three Mile Stone
“Of unchallenged Hibernian pedigree, and subtitling their debut CD “Irish Music from San Francisco”, this trio play and sing classic Irish American music with a western accent. Mandolinist Marla Fibish, fiddler Erin Shrader and guitarist Richard Mandel met at music camp session in California, and the rest is hazy except for the Zinfindel, but eventually they formed a band, for which all lovers of Irish music should be grateful. Three Mile Stone play powerful and absorbing stuff, whether songs or tunes. As well as Irish dance music and slow airs, there are a few lovely Quebecois pieces which the band have made their own. They also adopted a great producer in guitarist John Doyle, who knows a thing or two about fiddles and mandolins too. The album sound is superb throughout, and there’s little that could be improved musically.
Starting off with the currently popular slip-jig Moll Roe, Fibish and Shrader knock out several old favourites in fine style: Queen of the Rushes, Christmas Eve, Martin Mulvihill’s, Piper on Horseback, Stenson’s and many more. The swoop into John Dwyer’s is the first of numerous memorable fiddle touches, and while the mandolin sits slightly behind the fiddle on most tracks, Marla’s lead on Gypsy Princess establishes her as an equal partner in this triad. The guitar is similarly indispensable, particularly on the four vocal pieces which Erin and Marla share: a version of Brennan on the Moor, two more American songs from Mara, and Erin’s unaccompanied rendition of Dark is the Colour, where Richard of course does nothing. Actually, it’s hard to keep track of who’s playing what because there’s more chopping and changing here than a butcher’s costume ball: Erin picks up the mandolin, Marla grabs accordion or guitar, Richard switches to banjo, and all three provide backing vocals. This makes for a very rich and varied album, showing an impressive breadth of talent from all three musicians. You can check out the talent yourself at www.threemilestonemusic.com – there are several samples to choose from. ”
—Alex Monaghan, FolkWorld
“Traditional music can be a funny animal. For example, the most exciting and creative players may never perform in public other than the occasional pub session or after-hours festival jam. This is a part of the tradition: old-time Irish and Appalachian fiddlers were usually farmers and tradesmen, just like the rest of us working stiffs. Thus we find a wierd, wonderful subculture of fanatic, world-class Irish musicians out here on the West Coast, leading normal lives at normal jobs and meeting up every so often to engage in the uplifting spiritual experience called the Irish session.
Years ago, I first met Marla Fibish, Erin Schrader, and Richard Mandel of Three Mile Stone at a week-long musical gathering called Lark in the Morning (or Lark Camp), held every year outside Mendocino, California. There is an undeniable magic that happens during those late-night sessions, a spiritual uplifting not unlike Nirvana, that carries the players to a place beyond description. Out of those sessions comes a wonderful new recording from Marla, Erin, and Richard titled “Three Mile Stone.”
Produced by John Doyle, this collection of mostly Irish tunes and songs shimmers like the moon on the Shannon when it breaks through the ragged clouds of Ireland’s west. The trio displays a canny knack for putting together sets of three or four tunes that lead the listener from lazy hornpipe to lilting jig to reels that swing like there’s no tomorrow. Marla’s amazing mandolin playing sets the bar for all others; Erin’s fiddle practically glows from within, with a fire stoked by her passion and experience; and Richard’s guitar lays down a rhythmic foundation full of nuance and intricacy. The ladies also sing now and then, with style and grace. Both Marla and Richard display ample prowess on their other instruments, the accordion and tenor banjo. And the band ventures beyond the usual jigs and reels to prove that they know their way around polkas, waltzes, and airs, both inside and out. There’s not a dull moment on Three Mile Stone. Fiddlefreak recommended!
—Stuart Mason, Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog
“The San Francisco based trio Three Mile Stone has released a wonderful first album of traditional Irish tunes, showcasing Erin Shrader on fiddle, Marla Fibish on mandolin, and Richard Mandel on guitar. Pulsing sets of jigs, reels, and hornpipes (“Brian Montagues/The Noisy Curlew/The Drake’s Neck/Free and Easy”), beautiful airs (“Old Innishowan”), and fresh arrangements of songs (“Heather on the Moor”) all weave together seamlessly, managing to showcase the members’ impressive instrumental prowess and sound effortless at the same time.
Highlights for me include “Gipsy Princess/Granny in the Corner/Fleur de Mandragore,” driven tastefully by Mandel, and featuring Shrader and Fibish in a one-brain/two instruments take that lilts and builds. “Rodney’s Glory/Love Will You Marry Me/John Stenton’s” puts Fibish’s impeccable mandolin tone out front. “Piper on Horseback/Mulingar Lea/Molloy’s Favorite” shows that Mandel can seamlessly switch from deft backup on guitar to a lead seat, here on tenor banjo. And Shrader’s aching, a cappella take on “Dark is the Color” breaks my heart every time.
Three Mile Stone is a welcome treat to the Irish music scene, respectful to the rich tradition while helping it evolve. But regardless of the origins of the tunes, this is purely excellent acoustic music by three monster players. Do yourself a favor and dig in to Three Mile Stone!”
—Dan Gabel, Acoustic Guitar magazine
“These days it’s refreshing to hear a recording of Irish music that isn’t overproduced. This CD is true to the tradition and brings out the innate beauty of the music. This is great solid playing that will stand the test of time. Well done! ”
—Martin Hayes (Irish fiddle master)
“Some classy confident music from a San Francisco trio, concentrating on stringed instruments and an accordeon thrown in. Solid playing adopts a beefy no frills approach. John Doyle produces with his usual consummate taste. Nice one.”
“As an Irishman, when I hear Three Mile Stone I feel I’m only three Irish miles from home‐or a good stone’s throw. When I hear Marla Fibish play the mandolin, I’m at the very gates of Tír na nÓg itself!”
—Jimmy Crowley (legendary Irish troubadour and string wizard)
“Irish music is tough. It requires amazing speed, accuracy and nuance, especially on fiddle, and Three Mile Stone, on their self-titled CD, have that. And yet there is always the danger of playing long medleys of reel after reel after reel, on the same instruments, which make Irish music great for a contra dance but dull for a CD. Three Mile Stone avoids this. Each of their fourteen tracks is engaging, dynamic, and different than the one before, but all stay firmly rooted in tradition. The vocals are great; the instruments all blend well. The Irish aficionado will find the choice of tunes fresh and original.
I asked my four-year-old daughter what she thought of it. “I love this one,” she said, and soon after was dancing a kind of a pre-schooler’s hornpipe on the coffee table along to track five. So there you go: equally suited to listening or dancing.”
—Zach Hudson, Victory Review Acoustic Music Magazine
“Marla Fibish has been one of my favorite musicians since we were introduced by Randal Bays a number of years ago. She nails Irish traditional music on the mandolin, which is not easy to do, I am here to tell ya. Her feel is immaculate. Set yer watch to it!
The one time I met Erin Shrader—at Friday Harbor Irish Music camp back in ’02 or ’03—her fiddling impressed the bejayzuss out of me at a wee-hours session. Her playing here is robust and eloquent, fiery yet controlled.
Richard’s guitar playing is a perfect support and backdrop for Marla’s and Erin’s tune conversations. It never draws attention to itself except by its excellence and appropriateness. And he can play the snot out of the tenor banjo, too!
And then there is the singing. Not only are these three great instrumentalists, they also sing like birds!
The arrangements are really nice, inventive without being overdone. They flow out of the tunes and songs themselves and sound very natural.
John Doyle’s production is just right. Great mixes. The instruments sound perfect. I love that the mandolin sounds round and full but isn’t lost in the mix.
This is a friggin’ great CD! It has everything: great tunes, great playing, and great feel. I highly, highly recommend it! ”
—Roger Landes (Irish bouzouki master and Zoukfest founder)
“These rock‐solid modern trad players are having a ball weaving their delightful three‐way Celtic conversation. It’s nothing short of delightful to go along for the ride. Hot tunes, gorgeous sound, and effervescent delight in the music… what more do you want? Three Mile Stone rocks.”
—Danny Carnahan (singer, composer, string wizard)
“Beautiful CD! It’s so joyous! Great material and fantastic and heart‐felt playing.”
—Kaila Flexer (violinist/composer)
“Irish Music Triple Threat:
Here’s a comforting, and sometime rollicking, kitchen session for your iPod. Three Mile Stone—fiddler and vocalist Erin Shrader, guitarist Richard Mandel, and mandolinist Marla Fibish—has just released its eponymous indie CD debut. The contagious collection from this San Francisco–based Celtic music trio bristles with lively jigs, reels, and other Irish dance tunes. From the opening strains of the spry slip jig “Wheels of the World,” part of a medley of tunes that opens the disc, you’re transported into a vibrant musical landscape steeped in the rich tradition of the San Francisco Irish music scene. Shrader, the lutherie editor at Strings magazine, is no slouch on the fiddle—she’s a former US National Fiddle Champion and a one-time National Endowment for the Arts fellow in the folk arts. John Doyle, guitarist and longtime collaborator with Chicago-based Celtic fiddler Liz Carroll, produced this gem of an Irish music CD. “
—Greg Cahill, Strings magazine
“A superb CD. Every track is exceptional.”
—Shay Black (singer, Black Brothers, members of Ireland’s renowned Black family)