Heliotrope Bouquet Review
by Hilary Schrauf
Metroland, Albany, NY
September 30-Ocober 6, 1993

Sue Carpenter is no newcomer to the local folk scene. She first picked up a mountain dulcimer in 1981, and has been playin ever since. It’s only fitting that her debut disc (a mere 12 years later), “Heliotrope Bouquet” (Patchwork Productions), presents her sure-fingered playing in the musical company of such local notables as Roy Atkinson, Ian Hunter, Susan Trump, and Anne Bailey, among others. Produced at Arabellum Studios by Carpenter and Atkinson, and engineered by Atkinson and Art Snay, “Heliotrope Bouquet” nicely brings out the expressive vocabulary of Carpenter’s dulcimer.

Her unique style and sense of humor really shine here. Carpenter slows Pete Seeger’s “Living in the Country” to a rambling-river tempo and puts it back-to-back with lazy, beachy “Under the Boardwalk.” She lightens up “Greensleeves” to a less ponderous pace, and even takes a little spin with the classics in “Hallelujah Hoedown,” based on Handel’s ringing chorus.

The disc falters a little on “Summer Deck-Adence,” where Atkinson’s papery bongos sound a little hollow behind full-throttle dulcimer strumming. But the balance quickly returns in “Ruby Throat,” Carpenter’s dancing picture of hummingbirds in mating flight, where his rich guitar line chases her bright dulcimer melody. On traditional folk tune “Southwind” the layered fretwork by Carpenter and Susan Trump are like languid mountain breezes, the dulcimer lines seamless and graceful.

Also notable is the title cut’s sweet/spicy take on Scott Joplin’s rag-jazz with synthesizer trombone courtesy of Ian Hunter, and “When You Wish Upon a Star” for its un-saccharin twist to a normally goopy Disney favorite.