Just consider Annie Savage something of a fiddle expert.
She is part of one of Colorado’s newest bluegrass bands called the Savage Hearts, which have recently released their “Playing It Forward” CD. She’s also recently released her second instructional book on what she calls the Savage fiddler method.
The Savage Hearts sound traditional enough to please just about any fan of bluegrass greats such as Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs. However, it’s pretty easy to tell that the music of the Savage Hearts has a little something extra in their music. That “something” is pleasing to the ear, but difficult to put into words. The Savage Hearts call their brand of music spicy southwestern bluegrass.
In addition to Savage, the Savage Hearts includes Kit Simon, Kevin Slick and Bianca Bentz. There are several guests on the CD as well, including award-winning Becky Buller, Greg Blake, and Ellie Hakanson. The CD also features some the band’s children.
“Playing It Forward” kicks off in an upbeat way with “Age,” which is a song that appeared on Jim Croce’s final album. It makes for a great fit here and it is a good way to start the CD.
“Compadres of the Old Sierra Madre” and “El Cumbanchero” provide the probably the most obvious taste of the southwestern sound, but hints the southwest can be found on virtually every track.
One track that really caught my attention was “Faded Love” because I have been familiar with the some for most of my life. I have heard many country music versions of the song, including takes by Bob Wills, Patsy Cline and Conway Twitty. I really like the bluegrass take on this familiar tune. There’s so much to like about it with a great melody.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that every great bluegrass album needs to have at least one gospel track. There are some bluegrass bands that do this very well, such as Flatt Lonesome. The Stanley Brothers and Reno and Smiley were well-known for their gospel songs. The Savage Hearts do this very well and the additional of their gospel track does not seem at all forced. “Working On A Building” was a fantastic choice and fit perfectly on this album. They arranged the song with “Old Time Religion,” a brilliant move that the band attributed to Rachel Harrington.
“Playing It Forward” also features some original songs, including “Heaven on Earth” and Child’s Song,” both of which were written by Kevin Slick. Despite the classic songs included with the CD, the original compositions stand up beside them.
Savage also does fiddling workshops for students. Her technique is a combination of the Suzuki method and the Savage Fiddler Method, which she created and published in two instructional books. Savage has degrees from the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Boston Conservatory/Berklee School of Music. She currently serves as the president of the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society. She is also a certified Wernick Method teacher.