One of the most distinctive features of bluegrass is the way that an artist’s vocal prowess is frequently paired with instrumental virtuosity. Carley Arrowood fits comfortably in that mold, for while she’s a compelling singer, she’s also a powerful fiddle player who’s studied generations of bluegrass stylists and forged those influences into a style that’s all her own.
For her first Mountain Home Music Company single of 2021, Arrowood is offering her distinctive take on an enduring classic, “Ducks On The Millpond.” Though it shares its name with an old-time tune, this “Ducks” traces its lineage back to a 1975 recording by Kenny Baker, Bill Monroe’s longest-tenured fiddler and a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Even so, Arrowood’s version comes from a more recent example.
“I’ve been playing this tune since I was 15 years old,” she says. “Just a green bluegrass fiddler taking lessons with Bryan McDowell. He had my mom order all these albums by different fiddlers for me to listen to and study their different styles, and one of them was Aubrey Haynie’s Bluegrass Fiddle Album — still one of my favorite fiddle albums ever. ‘Ducks on the Millpond’ instantly became a favorite, and I remember trying to learn exactly what Aubrey did. When we recorded it, we made it our own by creating an arrangement of multiple split breaks, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! It’s so much fun, and I hope y’all enjoy our take on this great tune!”
With a stellar group that includes musical partner Daniel Thrailkill on guitar, five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, Kristin Scott Benson, mandolinist Wayne Benson and bass player Paul Watson, Arrowood attacks the tune with a strong bow arm and vibrant tone in classic fiddle-and-banjo style before giving way to an intricate succession of handoffs from one player to the next. The result is a neatly kaleidoscopic unfolding that brings a uniquely elegant energy to one of the most popular tunes in the bluegrass fiddle repertoire. Coming on the heels of Arrowood’s first hit song, “Ducks On The Millpond” is a refreshing reminder that she’s not just a fine singer, but an instrumental force to be reckoned with, too.
Listen to "Ducks On The Millpond" HERE.