Mountain Dulcimer Song Notes

This record was recorded in early March 2018, in Milwaukee, WI at Surround in Sound Studio. All recording and mastering was done by the great Jonathon Leubner.  

DAD = Tuning of Dulcimer  

  1. Hello Stranger: I learned this Carter Family Classic from the fine work of Norman Blake initially before hearing the original Carter Family take. Finger-picked in DAD 
  2. Banks of Ohio: This version of the classic murder ballad was penned by the late Larry Penn whose keen insights into the Rustbelt economy made him a natural to take on the subject of  Globalism. Strumming w/ a pick in DAD  
  3. Louis Collins: Originally recorded by the legendary Mississippi John Hurt of Avalon, MS in the 1920’s. This is a classic murder ballad, with a beautiful refrain. I added a D harp-in 1st Position. Finger-picked in DAD 
  4. All My Heart Can Hold: I wrote this song in the fall of 2017. It’s a song of gratitude to our angel Jenna “Lightening Heart” McBain, who’s love lifted my daughter and I out of the deepest and darkest of places. Finger-picked in DAD  
  5. Squabbling Blues: A pre-war blues tune I learned from Andy Cohen, who says he got it from the great Joe LaRose. I got to thinking, we as dulcimer players need to build our blues vocabulary, thus, I arranged this cool tune. Strumming with a pick in DAD 
  6. Away Rio: This beautiful Sea Shanty in 6/8 has been a perennial favorite at Maritime gatherings for over 100 years. My favorite version comes from the singing of late Folkway’s artist Sam Eskin. Finger-picked in DAD 
  7. Train That Carried My Gal From Town: From the fine work of White Country Bluesman Frank Hutchison, who recorded it in 1926 for Okeh records. Like many of my peers, I first heard this cool tune listening to Doc Watson. Strummed with a pick in DAD  
  8. Love Is Like a Pillow: Original song I wrote for our wedding on June 9th 2017. This song is aIso tied into a story that I often tell about a car crash we had as teenagers and 30 years later the loss of my first wife to lung cancer. Finger-picked in DAD capo 3 / G 
  9. The Potato Song (Bulbes): My grandparents often spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want me to know what they were saying, so I picked up the most colorful words in the language, and every once in a while, some old yiddish folk song like this one. Strummed in DAD  
  10. Look Where the Light Goes: Original tune I wrote in 2016 about finding the will to go on after the loss of my first wife to lung cancer. Strummed in DAD  
  11. Wee Midnight Hour: There are many lovely versions of this tune, some of my favorites include Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake & Curley Weaver and my pal Andy Cohen. I took some liberties with melody and contrary to the way it sounds, I am playing this without a pick, using my thumb instead. The triple meter strumming that you hear is a three finger triplet that I borrowed from my ukulele work, which transfers super well to the dulcimer so long as you don’t have a pick in your hands.  
  12. Station #4 Blues: Each morning when we drive my daughter to school, we pass Sheboygan Firehouse #4. This instrumental finger-picked piece has a real blues and boogie influence while trying to conjure up the whirlwind that is a fire alarm. Hints of Rev, Robert Wilkins, Tommy Johnson and Lead Belly, find their place in this mountain dulcimer instrumental.  

All songs are public domain or used with permission of the license holder except:  All My Heart Can Hold, Love is a Pillow, Look Where The Light Goes and Station #4 Blues; written by Lil Rev © ℗ 2018 Fountain of Uke Records BMI  

Lil Rev plays a Folkcraft Pro Series Mountain Dulcimer.


Lil Rev may be best known for his ukulele playing and teaching, but take it from me: he is a well-rounded multi-instrumentalist with a deep love and understanding of American vernacular music. His latest CD, titled simply “Mountain Dulcimer,” brings his unique focus to this most American of musical instruments.

Unlike the more common Appalachian or Celtic repertoire found on most dulcimer recordings, Rev tackles early blues — Mississippi John Hurt’s soulful “Louis Collins” is a standout  a Carter Family standard, a sea shanty and other old time folk styles. There is even a humorous Yiddish song. His original songs are particularly well crafted and poignant, as is Larry Penn’s modern take on the old ballad “The Banks of the Ohio.”

But the focus is firmly on the blues. If you think you can’t play a convincing country blues on the dulcimer, Rev’s virtuosic playing on “Squabbling Blues” will change your mind. You may never hear the dulcimer the same way again. 

Mark Nelson
Former National Champion on Mountain Dulcimer