Harlan County – Natalie Tomlinson

Natalie Tomlinson is a young fiddler from southeastern Kentucky. For the last few years she has performed as a member of Sunrise Ridge, and just recently joined the cast of the Hatfield McCoy Dinner Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN. Her second solo recording, Harlan County is a wonderful example of her talent as a bluegrass and country instrumentalist.

Tomlinson took a completely do-it-yourself approach to this project. She not only played all the instruments on almost every song, but she also mixed and mastered the recording, and designed the graphics for the CD packaging. The end result is pretty impressive. Two of the album’s tracks, Black Mountain Rag and Pine Mountain Breakdown, were recordings previously made with Sunrise Ridge.

Harlan County is primarily a collection of traditionally based music. The fiddle tunes on this album are a nice even mix between familiar pieces such as Maiden’s Prayer, Lost Indian, and Carroll County Blues, to more obscure instrumentals such as Southern Soldier Boy and Missouri Road.

The ultimate highlights of this recording are the title cut, Harlan County and Pine Mountain Breakdown, both of which are original tunes by Tomlinson. Natalie’s playing is rooted in the earlier generation of fiddlers such as Kenny Baker, Curly Ray Cline, Art Stamper, and Tommy Jackson. All of these influences can be heard clearly in these two compositions.

A Tear Dropped By and Wine, Women, and Song showcase Natalie’s abilities as a vocalist. While they are good tracks on their own, they don’t necessarily fit in well with the other songs on the project. Will You Miss Me is an interesting instrumental take on an old favorite. Tomlinson’s lead guitar playing on this tune is excellent.

Harlan County is a well done recording that highlights Natalie Tomlinson’s musical and engineering capabilities. This will definitely please fans of solid fiddle playing and straight up traditional acoustic music.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.