Daniel Sherrill - From A Heritage Tree CD
Daniel Sherrill - From A Heritage Tree CD
Daniel Sherrill - From A Heritage Tree CD
Daniel Sherrill - From A Heritage Tree CD
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Daniel Sherrill - From A Heritage Tree CD

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There are some beautiful shades to Daniel Sherrill's playing that go far deeper than virtuosity. - Folk Radio UK

Less is truly more on Daniel Sherrill’s album From A Heritage Tree. Solo, with only a banjo, Sherrill turns old traditionals into something new with mesmerizing fretwork. Sherrill is known as the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for Patchy Sanders, Hollis Peach. As a member of Oregon Shakespeare Festival Sherrill's work on productions of Oklahoma! and Hairspray are world renowned. He’s been featured in PBS NewsHour and NPR. Most recently Daniel helped establish the Ashland Folk Collective, and sits on the board. Daniel has shared the stage with acts like Shook Twins, Rainbow Girls, and John Craigie.

Given Daniels fervent pace with touring bands, and involvement in the Ashland, Oregon musical community a solo album was unlikely. It was by preparation and chance -the isolation of a pandemic, the gift of a certain banjo, and the completion of Daniel’s self-built home studio that he came to make a solo album. One that is so interesting you may get all the way through it before realizing there are no overdubs, and no other instrumentation. One banjo, that’s it. 

The banjo itself was built by a luthier from a fallen 275 year old Claro Walnut tree.  Sherrill was given the banjo by surprise early in the pandemic. He’d been busy setting up his own recording studio (Rent A Puppy Productions), so the timing was perfect. Nearly a week went by before Sherrill put the banjo down. What resulted was the recording of ten traditional songs written for fiddle and banjo. The tree was already 85 years old when some of these songs began being played.

Somehow Sherrill is able to elevate banjo songs into meditative mantras. Sherrill’s interpretations, and his accuracy over five strings on this beautiful instrument present the songs with a smoothness rarely heard in traditional recordings. On “Quincy Dillon” (aka Quincy Dillon’s Hi-D Tune)  notes roll and cascade off the banjo in the most pleasant way, and a peaceful journey begins.  Sherril’s take on the beginner tune “Over The Waterfall '' quickly becomes a dulcet, full song, full of fat tone. One can almost imagine a barrel or boat going down a rocky river in slow motion. Everyone from Doc Watson to Bela Fleck have turned in their version of the song “Cold And Frosty Morning” (including ASTR band Taco Tapes, on their Trad Is Rad album). The song is representative of the folklore songs themselves take on through years of performance. Some folklorists claim the tune should be accredited to Henry Reed. Others say it extends back to the Scottish Isles and commemorates a great battle on the moors. 

Sherill takes a different tack on the classic “Cumberland Gap” as well. Woody Guthrie, as well as Flatt & Scruggs both recorded this Appalachian tune (first recordings show up in the 1920s) about a crucial geographical point. The Cumberland Gap exists at the tip of the tail of Virginia, on the confluence of the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s the spot folks moving westward by horse and wagon shoot for when they exit (or flee) the Appalachian mountains. Sherrill’s version does not so much shoot the gap as it does stroll through it, to the rhythm of dappled sunlight through the trees.

What’s perhaps most delightful about Sherrill’s album is his completely non-academic take on traditional music. Like Dock Boggs, Dave Rawlings, or Jason Isbell, he honors the tune, but lets his melancholy lead the melody. The result is an album of traditional songs that sound like new tunes. 

Sherrill releases From A Heritage Tree on American Standard Time Records June 17th.