Still Point

Karen Mueller
Streamline Productions

From the WV program, September, 2000

Praising Karen Mueller is almost unnecessary. She has been lauded by Sing Out!, Dirty Linen and Bluegrass Unlimited, not to mention Autoharp Quarterly. In addition to being a past International Autoharp champion, she has picked up two Kansas Dulcimer titles. Her latest instruction book, Celtic Autoharp, is further evidence that Mueller's virtuosity and insight into the 'harp is widely respected in the acoustic music world.

All that said, the Winfield native shows even more command and maturity with the new CD "Still Point." Throughout the album, Mueller uses autoharp, mountain dulcimer and bass dulcimer in ways both traditional and unexpected. For "Britches Full of Stitches," Mueller lets Laura MacKenzie's concertina introduce the tune before tearing into it with the autoharp. Her voicings are carefully chosen, but the overall effect is breezy and effortless. The dulcimer comes in with brittle precision for a turn before a "y'all join in" finale. On "Kitchen Gal," Mueller lets the dulcimer play alone. The tone is full, and her approaches are varied. When the tempo is kicked up toward the end, there are a few microseconds that push the edge of the key deliciously.

Besides taking a run at tunes traditional ("Bill Cheatham") and near-traditional (campground favorite "Music for a Found Harmonium"), Mueller plays an original song, a favorite jazz number and a rock standard. There was a time when this might have been meant as a statement that autoharp and dulcimer players can play more that fiddle tunes and hymns, thank you very much. Mueller doesn't seem intent on proving herself, though. I suspect that her musical vision is keen enough to see the possibilities of unusual repertoire. Certainly in the cases of "Still Point," "Linus and Lucy" and "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," the use of bass dulcimer adds as much to the songs as the songs bring out in the instrument.

Besides employing her three main instruments, Mueller also contributes guitar and bouzouki to "Still Point." She relies on MacKenzie and other outstanding guests for fiddle, flute, whistle, percussion, and pipes. To hear how they all fit together, visit on the web.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: