Pratie Heads: More or less traditional music of the British Isles

Celtic duo the Pratie Heads play Irish, Scottish, British Isles music

Pratie Heads - Irish and Scottish music in Durham NC 
Bob Vasile and Jane Peppler, as the Pratie Heads, are sometimes performing as a duo but more often presenting their Irish and Scottish (and English and American) music with Jack Herrick of the Red Clay Ramblers, as "Duck Duck Goose." Call 919-606-2122 for more information. And click on an album cover below to hear our music.

Triangle Guitar Society News Review (abbreviated) by Paul Bonner
Praties banish the blues:
'Murder ballads' prove cathartic, while jigs and reels set toes to tapping

Mayhem is everywhere, and it has always been so, as the Pratie Heads chronicled in folk ballads during their salon concert on Dec. 1. They presented a cavalcade of folly and woe, and along with lighter fare - and with refreshing results.

This was music making of the highest order - and fellowship to match... Peppler and Vasile have a long and storied career in the Triangle folk music scene and beyond, performing for decades as the Pratie Heads and as members of other ensembles ("pratie" is Irish dialect for potato).... as a duo, they possess a rare alchemy. Both display an instrumental and compositional virtuosity that sets them apart from most folk groups, often taking the music into harmonic modes and modulations that are anything but simple or ordinary. They also have done a great job of ferreting out songs from centuries past with engaging - at times, gruesome - lyrics.

Exhibit A of the more lighthearted variety was the opening number, "What a Shocking World This Is For Scandal," a first-person ditty by the early 19th century comedic songwriter Thomas Hudson. The narrator is an inveterate gossip who "never says nothing to nobody" about all his neighbors' crimes and foibles, which he then ironically catalogues in hilarious detail. As Peppler said in introducing the song, it covers all seven deadly sins. It's a fitting introduction as well to their album "We Did It!" which is subtitled "Songs of People Behaving Badly."

They followed up with a contrastingly jazzy and upbeat instrumental, "Bagira's Walk," an original number that Vasile named for his cat. ... Instrumentals through the evening included two beautiful and quintessentially Celtic compositions by the 18th century blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan.

Then came one of several ballads they played that were collected by Francis James Child in the 19th century. In "Lamkin," the title character, a mason, exacts revenge by nonpayment by the lord of the manor. "Maybe that wasn't the worst one," Peppler warned when it was done. "Maybe this is the worst one," as they launched into "Lucy Wan," a ballad featuring both murder and incest. ... the Praties can be serious, though - poignant, even - and never more so than in "Mayn Shvester Khaye," which Peppler sang in Yiddish. (Lyrics by Binem Heller and music by Chava Alberstein). The song commemorates the writer's beloved sister, a victim of the Holocaust.

The Praties once again showed why they have endured in the folk music scene - they have a sophisticated understanding of their material and a creative approach to it, along with a spontaneity that never fails to connect with audiences. It's easy to imagine their years as ambassadors for this music, whether at the Smithsonian Institution or throughout North Carolina with the state's Touring Artists program. And sometimes they're all one needs to put a dark and stormy night into perfect perspective.

The Pratie Heads were long-time members of the wonderful and sadly missed Touring Artists Program of the North Carolina Arts Council.

Steve Winick wrote in Dirty Linen Magazine:

"The Pratie Heads were their state's premiere performers of British Isles traditional music ... they have made some of the best Celtic, English, and early American folk music available in recorded form. They have picked beautiful, uncommon songs to play, have thoroughly researched tunes and texts to produce the best possible versions, and have lovingly and impeccably arranged them. And still it emerges as spontaneous, joyful music - it's a rare gift they have. ... Peppler's voice is a clear soprano wonder with a feeling of intense but controlled wildness that she may owe to her training in Slavic and Balkan singing ... as amazing on fiddle as she is singing, [with] great tone on the slower tunes and real speed on the quick ones. My suggestion is to buy a copy of each tape, and then make a dub of each. Put the originals away in a cool, dark place and play the dubs. That way, when you've worn out your copies, you can repeat the process without having to pay for more tapes. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Order recordings

Send us email
Or call 919-606-2122 (Jane)
or 919-406-4306 (Bob)

Thanks for a fantastic performance.

Bob (and Jane), I was hoping to see you at our favorite breakfast haunt so I could thank you in person but now I don't want to delay sending you and Jane my sincere thanks for a fabulous performance for our annual Triangle Guitar Society holiday salon recital.

We've always enjoyed your many performances for us in the past mostly in a solo format but with Jane Peppler as your duo partner I believe you have a fantastic synergy of talents and a fine ensemble that's as expressive as it is flawless. With your your fantastic originals and your special unique arrangements there's no limit to your success.

I have heard many compliments from our TGS folks how blown away they were to find that Jane sang perfectly in Spanish and with a seductive charm as well. Starting off with the eastern European sounding piece Daichovo Horo was a smash hit. It was great to hear the duo version of Boutros the Cat. And Bagira's walk owes a lot to Dadfad in Bagdad and you know I love that special style. Perhaps this piece should be our next transcription project.

And I especially love your new murder ballads and yes you're a great singer too. Lord Franklin is so tender and sweet that on first hearing I already feel nostalgic. And I think your next album after the murdererous ballades should be entirely devoted to your own compositions as they are always my favorite pieces when I hear you play.

Already we are planning to get you guys back in one of our public concerts soon. With the gypsy seduction of Jane's playing and singing and your special exciting style of guitar and bouzouki and fantastic tender singing your duo deserves to be heard far and wide and I congratulate you both on achieving such a fine accomplished ensemble.

Randy Reed
President, Triangle Guitar Society
Lecturer/Instructor of Guitar, Duke University

The Pratie Heads at (listen to our cds for free)

"You don't look famous, but you sound famous." (Comment from audience member buying our cd! Heh heh.)

Hear harmony vocals on ballads, songs and snatches (and dreamy lullabies); beautiful airs, strathspeys, jigs, reels, hornpipes, waltzes, and music of indescribable tempo on guitar, bouzouki, concertina, violin, and viola...

Contact Jane Peppler:

Contact Bob Vasile: