Blue Sky on Walnut - Supertrad (Sam Bartlett & Eric Schelder)

I received a lovely recording the other day from the Bloomington, Indiana, based band Supertrad entitled “Blue Sky on Walnut”

Supertrad’s current lineup is Sam Bartlett on tenor banjo plus five string banjo, and Eric Schedler on piano accordion — and the instrument combo from Sam and Eric on this recording is indeed Super —  and trad!!

Many would know Sam Bartlett from the contra dance and New England music tradition and also his amazing visual artwork and life as a stuntologist — and if you don’t, please check out for all the delights!

Sam and I also share a great endearing music connection with the late Mick Moloney who inspired Sam to the tenor banjo for Irish music, and Mick who inspired me to love the tenor banjo from all our years playing music together

The other half of Supertrad, is Eric Schedler, a classically trained harpsichordist (and pianist) who has added the piano box to his musical arsenal — an addition which is heartily appreciated by this listener!

Eric was initially inspired by my friend, the great box player and musician Alan Kelly, whom Eric met in 2016 — and more recently, Eric has an informal mentoring relationship with another great box player (and friend), Tadhg O Meachair, recently of the great trad-band Goitse who is currently living in Indiana.

There is a great history of banjo and box combos in Irish music spurred on by the likes of Edward Herborn & James Wheeler (1916), The Flanagan Brothers (1920s) and in more recent years Tony MacMahon & Barney McKenna, my namesake James Keane & Mick Moloney and many others. You can now add Sam Bartlett and Eric Schedler to the list!

Anyway, on to the music:

Some of my favorites include Junior Crehan’s composition “The Luachrachán” jig followed by “The Cordal” jig which was popularized by fiddler Denis Murphy of County Kerry.

A beautiful tune “Time Will End” written by fellow box player and friend Jeremiah McLane starts off a set along with two great tunes written by Eric, “Hardin Ridge” and “Grey Day” which Eric wrote for musician Grey Larsen.

Sam Bartlett’s two penned reels “Green Table” and “Supertrad” are both strong and driving tunes.

There are some lovely waltzes on this recording including “Market Waltz” written by Eric and “Blue Sky on Walnut” by Sam. And also some grand marches written by Eric: “Katie’s Tune” for Eric’s wife and “Hamlet’s Rebuttal” which Eric wrote for Sam.

This recording is dedicated to the late and great musician Jamie Gans whom I knew since the early 1970s when we were both starting out in this great music. In Jamie’s honor, Sam & Eric play one of Jamie’s compositions — a brilliant reel named the “Desnoyer Reel” after a street Jamie lived on in St. Paul, Minnesota.

And Eric wrote a lovely jig for Jamie named “Young Man from St. Paul” which Eric took the title from a hornpipe written by Paddy O’Brian of Tipperary for Jamie Gans — which was later renamed, much to Jamie’s disappointment.

And I could go on…

“Blue Sky on Walnut” is a mighty recording of tunes both old and new by Sam Bartlett and Eric Schedler under the banner of Supertrad. I’ve always adored recordings where it is just two folks playing tunes tightly together with the occasional harmony and wandering complimentary notes. The rhythm and lift in their playing shines through too — you know they know how to play and interact with dancers. As a piano box player, I am particularly impressed by Eric’s playing on the box with his lovely bass/chordal work in addition to his tune playing. That doesn't take anything away from Sam’s equally great playing on the banjo — instead this combo of Sam and Eric brings out the best of each other performance wise and in service to the music. And finally, their tune writing skills are mammoth and make this entire album worth getting and listening to for years to come — or at least until their next one! Great work lads!!

— Jimmy Keane (February 9th, 2024)

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