Cold Frosty Morning (Rainer Zellner)

Rainer Zellner
Cold Frosty Morning
Softbound, 34 pages with cassette and 8 page insert

You may not be familiar with the name Rainer Zellner, but if you're a mandolin player, you ought to remember the name. In addition to supplying sixteen fine instrumental tunes on Cold Frosty Morning, he also includes a nice booklet of transcriptions of the mandolin breaks. This is not a beginner's tape, though.

Zellner is an accomplished player, with a clean style which reminds one of Jimmy Gaudreau. The tunes are not slowed down or simplified for the beginning mandolin player, and the tape stands on its own merits as an excellent instrumental collection.

The first side is devoted to eight traditional Irish tunes, with Zellner himself playing the lead mandolin, mandola and some outstanding rhythm guitar. There's a variety of musical styles here with plenty of goodies to add to your bag of licks. Buffalo Hornpipe and the title cut particularly stand out.

Side two consists primarily of standard bluegrass tunes, including the almost-obligatory cross-picked Home Sweet Home. Still, the playing is lyrical and bouncy and the tunes don't actually sound overdone. Some aren't, in fact. Town & Country Fiddler is a welcome addition to the standard fare. The overall sound quality is excellent, except for the mandolin/banjo medley of Goldrush and Big Mon which sounds as if it were recorded in a separate session on inferior equipment. I wish Zellner had re-recorded that cut.

Zellner uses both tablature and standard musical notation for the transcriptions, so you don't need to understand German to make sense of the music. The text of the booklet is in German, but that hardly makes a difference. There are short notes with each tune giving some background and an occasional hint about the arrangements, but you won't miss much if your German is rusty or non-existent. Nearly everything you really need is in the tabs. There is also the usual review of mandolin fundamentals (hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, tremolo, etc), but anyone not familiar with these is going to find this tape tough sledding. He also includes a separate insert with the transcriptions of alternative breaks for several of the tunes.

What is nice about Cold Frosty Morning is that it's a tape full of excellent music, fully deserving of a place on the shelf beside the likes of Doyle Lawson, David Grisman or even Bill Monroe. What makes it terrific is that the instruction booklet shows the intermediate player how it's done. We could use a lot more collections like this.

(Rainer Zellner, Rosenbergstrasse 107, 7000 Stutgart, 0711/631402, Germany)
Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, March 1991. Used with permission.