My parents always seemed to me to represent two very different strains of sixties counterculture. My mom loved Peter, Paul and Mary, Appalachian folk and bluegrass, and played the dulcimer and autoharp. My dad loved psychedelic rock, and had an extensive collection of Zeppelin, Beatles, Floyd, and Hendrix records. It wasn’t a Dylan-goes-electric-level disagreement, but their fond reminisces of the glory days could sometimes get a little tense. But as we’ve seen in decades since, folkies, hippies, and psych-rockers can come together, and not only in 70s folk-rock bands from California. Take Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’s fruitful and unlikely collaboration, for instance, or the dozens of Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones covers by dozens of flannel-clad indie folkers.
In the past decade or so, it almost came to seem like psychedelic blues-rock and mountain folk music had always made comfortable bedfellows, and maybe they had. (After all, Zeppelin included folk instruments on several of their classic songs, like John Paul Jones’ mandolin on “Going to California.”) As further evidence we have 3-string electric mountain dulcimer player Sam Edelstein, who covers classic rock songs on an instrument usually thought of as particularly gentle, delicate, and sweet, as its name implies. At the top, see Edelstein rip through a searing version of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Just above, he does a killer take on the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and below, Edelstein plays an increasingly rocking cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” at the National Mountain Dulcimer Competition. As uploader Contemporary Dulcimer states on Youtube, “the dulcimer’s roots may be in folk music, but it’s a natural rock & roll instrument.” Indeed. Who knew?