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September 23, 1979 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-23

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, September 23, 1979-Page 5

McCASLIN-RINGER AT THE ARK:

A dose
By ERIC ZORN
There is perhaps no more etherially
beautiful experience in folk music than
to hear Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin
perform "The Bramble and the Rose."
Their voices rise and fall, laced
together in perfect harmony as inex-
pressably sweet as the lyrics them-
selves. 'In concert, they have no in-
strumentation other than their two six
string guitars, and we are spared the
Longines symphonette string section
that shows up on the album cut. Ringer
and McCaslin thus give all one could
ever ask for: A good song simply and
powerfully performed.
As a duet, Ringer and McCaslin offer
no less. Never has male-female har-
mony sounded quite this good or have
two voices seemed better suited to each
other. No, fans, not even Carly Simon
and James Taylor. They couldn't pack
Ringer-MeCaslin's lunch,
TO BE SURE, both Ringer and Mc-
Caslin are capable performers in their
own rights, and this weekend's concerts
at the Ark gave them plenty of room to
showcase their talents. "Our singing
together at the end of the concert is only
good 'after the people have seen us play
separately first," insists Mary Mc-
Caslin. "Just together doesn't show
enough of what we can do."
What McCaslin can do is write good
songs, sing them very well, and accom-
pany herself solidly and imaginatively
on the guitar and banjo. Her stage
charm (she was not particularly funny)
won the audience' right away, in
marked contrast to the lackadaisical
and uncomfortable .set she played a
year ago at the Ark.
Ringer met McCaslin seven years
ago during a camp-out for folksingers
in Sierra mountains of California, and
they have been together ever since.
They are now married, and live in a
house "in what would be called the
slums" of San Bernardino, Ca.
"WE'RE BORDERING on middle
class now," Ringer says. "The nice
think is we're making a living doing
what we want to do, playing music."
A rugged, burly man, .Ringer scar-

f fiowe
cely looks the part of the droll, ironic
raconteur that he plays on stage. His
act, as opposed to McCaslin's, is pep-
pered with funny songs and keenly
timed remarks. "If you gotta classify
me, you gotta say I'm country," he
says. But his medium tempo ballads
and laments, capably growled in a ser-
vicable bass, cover a large area of folk
music.
In every way, though, when the two of
them finish the evening together on
stage, the best aspects of both sets
come together and build to a
remarkable climax. It is not necessary
to see them individually first. "The
Bramble and the Rose" alone stands as
proof.
McCaslin, who sings with a slight,
engaging lisp as does Ringer, has a
rich, soaring voice. When it entwines
with Ringer's, the effect is to smooth
out any wrinkles the both of them might
have, and the blend is outstanding.
The instrumentation gets a boost
because McCaslin's sturdy finger
picking now has Ringer's clean strums
behind it, and the overall sound is full
but simple. "If our album (The Bram-
ble and the Rose, the only one they have
recorded together) is over-orchestrated
with strings and allthat, it's because I
like it that way," says Ringer in an-
swering his critics.
"I'd like to travel with a band behind
us. If we had the money, we'd do it that
way.19
WHICH MAKES us glad that Ringer
and McCaslin aren't any more suc-
cessful than they are. Both have four
solo albums out on various lables, and
they are performing regularly, but
Ringer was just recently able to buy his
first new car.
Just the two of them on stage make
for not only good music, but a good
show. Ringer's disarming wit and Mc-
Caslin's conspiratorial mugging with
the audience is a bit like the old Sonny
and Chertschtick, only funny and
without the cutesy, ponderous put-
downs.
"We get along amazingly well con-
sidering we have almost no time away
from each other,"'says McCaslin.
"In fact, a lot of our disagreements
happen on stage," adds Ringer. "We'll
let each other know how we feel, and
that relieves tension between us."
The magic is clearly there, but both
entertainers are set- on the idea of
separate identities and careers. They
promise "eventually" to do another
disc together, if any of us can wait that
long, but never, they say, will they
combine their acts permanently. Their

ring folk charm

appearances as a duo will remain just a
tasty dessert to their solo appearances.
It's impossiple to complain: The en-

tire concert was a class act, best sym-
bolized by the exquisite moment of
"The Bramble and the Rose."

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Daily Photo by KAREN ZORN
Performing alone and together, Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin bowled
'em over in a pair of performances at The Ark this weekend. As their album
"The Bramble and The Rose" indicates, they are a remarkably talented
duo) as this photo indicates, woodshedding is a good deal of the reason why.

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