The Columbia Daily Tribune review of our new “Carp Fishing in Missouri” recording.
Become an Ambassador of Boonville by Edward Lang (Boonville Daily News 4/7/2014)

It does not seem that long ago that Dave Para and Cathy Barton made a visit to my fourth grade class at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School to share their expertise of music with us. It was one of my fondest memories I have of grade school, which I contribute to my love of music. Most importantly, I believe it was the inspiration they instilled on me about my own community, which led to a greater understanding and appreciation for the place I call home.
In fourth grade, we embarked on a historical journey back in time. We did not board a yellow school bus with Miss Frizzle at the helm, but this journey took us to the early foundation of our community without leaving the present. We even branched out and filled our minds with knowledge of the famous Missourians who graced the 200 years of our state’s existence. We did not just read books, we experienced and saw first hand our own history. As a matter of fact, we are living it.
I have always been a hands on type person and when I got to visit the places that I heard or read about in history books it was so much more meaningful. History came to life. I could touch it. I could feel it. I even could hear it.
It was a treat, especially for me, to have Boonville’s own folk musicians visit the classroom. They brought their instruments, and even the autoharp. We sang very old simple folk songs and I even had the opportunity to play a marimba from Africa. It was one of the few times the whole class was engaged at once in such a matter that seemed to even entice the students who did not care that much about folk music. Cathy and Dave made their stop in the classroom every week and towards the end of their visit we all crafted bow like instruments that could be played by holding one side to the mouth and plucking a string attacked to both ends of the bow, like a juice harp. All of our instruments were decorated since they were uniquely ours.
This was an experience that means more to me now than it did then. It was the time that I really began to have an interest in history and in culture. I firmly believe the more we know about the place we live, the more we can understand and appreciate other places.
Dave and Cathy were acting like ambassadors to the children of Boonville in the form they knew best, through music. They taught us how to appreciate our heritage in a way that was exhilarating, and honestly, they gave the Missouri River a new meaning to me.
Dave and Cathy still act as ambassadors of music. They host musicians from around the world and bring them to our town so they can all share the universal language of the world with us all.

Dulcimer Players News review of “Sabbath Home.”

From the community

Magnifico Music in the Park

By Cathy Godfrey July 23 at 1:06 p.m.

A huge thank you needs to be given to the sponsors of the Fourth Annual Music in the Park held on Friday, July 22, 2011 at Memorial Park in Wheaton. Leading them is First Trust Portfolios, Wheaton Bank and Trust Co., Folk-Lore Center, City of Wheaton, Wheaton Fine and Cultural Arts Commission, Wheaton Park District and Bud Smith—Farmers Insurance.
I was astounded with the level of expertise and talent shown by the three groups performing. Cathy Barton with her masterful frailing banjo style and hammered dulcimer, along with Dave Para on guitar brought back some of that good old folk music from the Ozarks. Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan were mesmerizing with their gypsy flamenco music. Alfonso blew my mind with his unbelievable skill on the guitar. Magnifico! He reminded me of the great flamenco players of the past. Swing Gitan plays the 1930’s style music of guitarist Django Reinhardt, a bit of early jazz with gypsy music. I was totally impressed. The last group, Sunnyside Up would rival any of the headliner bluegrass bands that I had just seen at the Telluride, CO Bluegrass Festival. Their lead, Colby Maddox won first place at the Rocky Grass mandolin competition in Colorado.
Thank you so much for bringing these fantastic groups to Wheaton. My suggestion next year would be to publicize this ten fold so that many more people can enjoy such outstanding talent!

Cathy Godfrey
Wheaton, IL

CATHY BARTON & DAVE PARA: Ballad of the Boonslick. “The range of song types and eras represented attests to the love this couple feels for the richness of American folk culture… Fine musicianship, convincing vocals and informative notes on the origin of each song — an album recommended to those who listen to feel the authentic vibrations given off by American ancestral music. Like the finest of such records, this one offers itself as historical reclamation and preservation.” – Montana K. Youngs, OP Independent Music Magazine, U Issue, Jan./Feb. 1984.

From The Washington Post, Nov. 30, 1990

by Richard Harrington

‘TWAS ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS; A Christmas Legacy.

CD 114, Folk-Legacy Records, Inc.

++++One of the year’s best, this collection feels exactly like what it is, family and friends gathered together to drive the cold winter away with good song. The core group is Folk-Legacy founders Sandy and Caroline Paton and Cathy Barton and Dave Para, with several guests enriching the harmonies, which are, by turn, jolly, jovial and enriching.

++++Basic instruments are guitar, fiddle, concertina and dulcimer, an ever-shifting folk chamber ensemble. The repertoire is both traditional and contemporary, drawn mostly from Europe and rural America; it is refreshingly unfamiliar and exquisitely chosen.

“Dave and Cathy are truly a duet, both in everyday life and on stage. Dave’s guitar and vocals complement Cathy in such a marvelous way that an evening with them is like a comfortable chair by a warm fire…it makes you relax and feel just right. Their repertoire depends heavily on material they have collected in their home region and on their travels, and the sincerity which they bring to their music is truly a treat for all.”

BALLAD OF THE BOONSLICK — Cathy Barton and Dave Para

There’s simply no way Cathy and Dave could make a bad record. This duo from Missouri make some of the best music you’ll ever hear. Cathy’s banjo frailing and hammered dulcimer playing astound audiences wherever she performs, and Dave’s solid guitar (both backup and lead) and exceptional vocal stylings cement the whole thing together…The biggest treat for me on this album are Dave’s vocals; somehow I’d overlooked what a fine singer he is. A superb duet on “Rise, Oh Fathers,” coupled with “No Time to Tarry Here” illustrates the major vocal advances these two have made… Instrumentals like “The Call of the Far-Away Hills,: the beautiful “Boyer’s Waltz” and “Dry and Dusty” all showcase Cathy’s hammered dulcimer — but don’t forget to listen to Dave’s bass runs and solo work on guitar… It’s a grand package by fine musicians. —Art Thieme, COME FOR TO SING, Winter 1983.

WalnutValley Occasional, December 1998
Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Crazy Quilt, (CD, 18 selections)

The newest offering by Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Crazy Quilt, is aptly titled.  This is a collection of folk music as varied as a grandma’s crazy quilt, and every bit as stunning in its design and colors.  Along with the traditional selections, Cathy and Dave have proved once again their amazing ability to find and preserve “new” folk music.
But even the traditional selections are “finds” in a way, at least as presented by this folk music duo.  In addition to their skills in performing, they are also very talented in their blending other musicians’ talent to this quilt.
Cathy and Dave have a well-earned reputation for instrumental excellence. This album has its share of instrumental brilliance.  Traditional fiddle breakdowns, known to fiddlers as No. 159 and 158 in R.P. Christeson’s The Old Time Fiddler’s Repertory are helpfully re-titled with “Levee Breakdown/Jefferson City Hornpipe.”  It’s toe-tapping excellence performed by Cathy on hammered dulcimer, Dave on guitar, Jim Lansford on fiddle and Kim Lansford on piano.  Another instrumental from the Old Time Fiddler’s Repertory is “Port One-Step,” with its intriguing change of pace.  The oddly titled but marvelously performed “Spider Bit the Baby” features Cathy’s remarkable frailed banjo.  “GraniteLake,” written by Don Pettigrew, is particularly delightful as Cathy’s hammered dulcimer teamed with Ed Trickett also on hammered dulcimer present a musical tribute to the serenity of a small sparkling lake in northern Ontario.
Crazy Quilt has other highlights, too, such as with the ballads of the burning and sinking of one of the largest steamboats on the Mississippi, the “Bayou Sara,” and a gentle-hearted Mormon song sweetly accompanied by Cathy on mountain dulcimer.
“Call down” is performed acappala by Cathy, Dave and Ed Trickett.  The song, written by Chicago folk musician Margaret Nelson, has a centuries-old feel especially as performed by these three.  It’s a marvelous combination that helps spark the magic of this album several times.  One of the best examples of their vocal harmonies is in “Bramble and the Rose,” but you can’t overlook “Handful of Songs” as one of the best songs on the album.
Adding to the crazy quilt mosaic is a poem by John B. Neihardt, the famed author of Black Elk Speaks, titled “Easter.”  Set to music by Columbia musician Ken Shepherd, the poem has a striking message.  Dave gives it even more pizzazz with his performance on the didgeridoo.
Other cultural flavors include “Alte Steirer,” a tune Cathy and Dave picked up while traveling in Germany and Austria.
Crazy Quilt will tickle any true music lover’s interest. It is a delight, and an accurate representation of the outstanding music we’ve come to expect from Cathy and Dave.


I LOVE the new album! It’s everything I’d hoped and more. You’ve made a serious contribution to the lexicon of steamboat music. I’m making it required listening for all of our lounge entertainers.Marcia Sparks is the retail maven. Extension 546. Best of luck with her, she’s an evil Yankee b—ch.

Hope you had a joyuos holiday season. I love the new album so much, you’ll really never know what it means to an old river rat like me. (Yikes, the cat…………!)  Tom Hook, DQ

Sunny CD keeps winter at bay

By MARGOT McMILLEN Special to the Tribune
Story ran on Sunday, February 04 2001

This winter, two of Boonville’s devoted musicians have released “Living on the River,” a collection of music that salutes generations of musicians who have worked and played music together for decades and are passing their music on.
Recorded by Stephen Gardner at the Music House in Columbia, “Living on the River” is the latest venture by Cathy Barton and Dave Para. The two have tirelessly researched the folklore and history of our region. Among their projects are two important collections of Civil War tunes and a beguiling album of Christmas music.
Barton grew up in Columbia; Para came to the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and never left. Together, they learned the music of Taylor McBaine, Pete McMahan and other Boone Countians with tunes and skills going back to the turn of the last century and earlier. Young musicians, most notably Leela and Ellie Grace, have learned from them in turn. A hasty categorization of Barton-Para music might wedge it into the acoustic folk genre, but, like the river, Mid-Missouri music brings together influences from all over the world. Para and Barton are always researching as they travel to perform. This collection includes tributes to all the mighty rivers of America and reaches into history. Some of the oldest sounds seem refreshingly new.
“Shawneetown,” a traditional song commemorating a 1700s river port, comes to life in this version with Barton on mouthbow, Para playing bones, Forrest Rose on bass and Rich Oberto on drums. That’s right, no fiddle, banjo or guitar. Para and Barton pronounce words as if they are meant to be understood: “Now the current’s got her, boys, we’ll take up some slack. We’ll float her down to Shawneetown and bushwhack her back.” Para’s excellent notes cover the history of each piece and give some context, explaining, for example, that bushwhacking meant to “propel a boat upstream by pulling on overhead branches.”
A medley, “This is My River/Sam Polo,” opens with a Tom Paxton song harvested by Lee Ruth from a 1960s television public service announcement then adds an 1850s tune from the U.S. Navy Band. Got that? Now add a calypso beat, and, well, it swings. I kept waiting for Ruth to chime in. Note for future projects – more Ruth.
This album runs deep with other local treasures: Three of the 19 cuts are songs written by Boonville’s Bob Dyer, who combines storytelling with deep knowledge of Missouri history. A plaintive John Hartford song, “Old-Time Riverman,” will make you wish for at least one Hartford piece on every CD issued by anyone from now on. Hartford lives in Nashville, Tenn., now, but CallawayCounty still claims him.
Several pieces in the collection come from traditional American repertory. “Natchez Under the Hill,” with banjo by Barton, Para on guitar and bones and Paul Grace on fiddle, will be familiar to fiddle fans as a cousin of “Turkey in the Straw.” Grace and his wife, Win, share their skills on other memorable cuts, including a hearty double-time instrumental march, “The Steamboat.” Those who have followed the Barton-Para team expect Barton’s solid vocals and masterful banjo and hammered dulcimer, with hearty backup guitar and vocal harmony from Para. Two of the nice surprises on this collection are Para’s especially robust lead singing and the addition of old-time piano to Barton’s bag of musical gifts.
Besides those already mentioned, many top local musicians perform on this CD. The Grace sisters contribute instrumentals and vocals and add percussive feet and hambone to “Talk About Your Greenbacks,” a traditional song first collected by Sandy Paton at Folk-Legacy Records. Howard Marshall on fiddle, Ruth on vocal, Knox McCrory on harmonica and Sam Griffin clapping his hands all add to the sunny mix.

Jim McCarty
Editor, Rural Missouri Magazine
by Jim McCarty

The year was 1975 and our country embraced its heritage in preparation for the coming Bicentennial. In Columbia traditional music flourished at a place called The Chez, a coffee house located in a church.
One of the residents of the alcohol-free gathering place was Dave Para. Here he met a young lady named Cathy Barton who shared his interest in playing folk music.
Those early days at The Chez cemented a relationship built around music that survives today. Dave and Cathy, now husband and wife living in Boonville, have devoted their lives to preserving our music heritage.
Across the country, Dave’s guitar and Cathy’s banjo are in demand for concerts, workshops, steamboat cruises, dances and classroom residencies. They’ve gained quite a reputation as folk musicians who play a huge variety of songs.
Mention the words “folk music”, however, and Dave is quick to point out that the art form has two definitions. “One is traditional music and the other is in the traditional style, in other words somebody playing the guitar and writing their own songs. That would make Bob Dylan a folk singer here whereas in some countries they wouldn’t say that,” Dave says.
The music Dave and Cathy play has been played for hundreds of years. Their 10 albums run the gamut of traditional music, from old square dance tunes to work songs of the rivermen to spirituals played at brush arbor revivals. They’ve been painstakingly rediscovered and learned from old songbooks, scratchy recordings and first-hand from Ozark grannies.
Traditional music never died out, but became harder to find. “When you start looking for them you realize they aren’t dead,” Cathy says of the old tunes. “And when you find pieces of it in the modern culture it makes that part of the culture richer.”
The two say they have been fortunate to start playing this kind of music under the nurturing of some true masters of the art, including old time fiddlers Taylor McBaine, Spencer Kelly and Pete MacMahan. Their stage presence was honed in part from playing with Grandpa Jones, a country musician with deep roots in traditional music.
But it was the folks at The Chez who contributed the most to Dave and Cathy’s style. The two especially credit Taylor McBaine’s hard-driving fiddle for their style.
“He taught me a good number of the tunes I play and I still think my banjo style has been very directly influenced by the way he played fiddle,” says Cathy.
Others who found The Chez music scene – folks like Win and Paul Grace and Howard Marshall – remain Dave and Cathy’s close friends and often join them on stage or in their infrequent albums. The duo’s latest effort is a 19-song tribute called “Living on the River”.
It features Dave and Cathy on a variety of instruments and vocals. But it also blends the music of 10 other central Missouri musicians who add their special touch to the album.
That album followed one called “Crazy Quilt” which sums up a lot of what Dave and Cathy do. The songs on this album come from a wide variety of sources and traditions and reflect the melting pot that to them is Missouri.
For example, one song tells the tale of the Mormons’ struggles against prejudice. Another relates the fate of the steamboat “Bayou Sarah” which burned near New Madrid in 1885. The liner notes that come with their CDs tell each song’s history.
While the albums are the end result of Dave and Cathy’s research, their work in schools perhaps best sums up their mission. As part of the Missouri Arts Council’s Arts in Education program, the two expose grade school students to the folk arts.
They try to immerse the students in all aspects of folkways, not just music. Their presentations include foods, storytelling and quilting. One project involves showing kids music can be made from anything. They teach them how to make mouth bows, a simple instrument that is easy to make and use.
The kids also get to hear Dave play the leaf. Dave uses a plastic leaf held in his hands to coax high-pitched renditions of old fiddle tunes.
“The leaf is more comic relief than musical,” Dave says. “People are amazed but I’m not sure they want an encore.”
When they’re not in the studio or on the road with their music Dave and Cathy concentrate on the Big Muddy Music Festival, a traditional music showcase held in Boonville’s historic Thespian Hall. The two help organize the festival and also take the stage.
Earning a living playing music has its ups and downs but Dave and Cathy wouldn’t give it up for anything. “I guess we could be better known, we could play more widely and frequently than we do,” adds Dave. “But part of the deal is we like being in touch with our community and our state and we don’t want to lose sight of where we are from. After all, we’re know for music that’s from Missouri.”
“You see yourself as part of the process,” Cathy says. “It’s been going on a lot longer than when you came around and it’s probably going to be going on a long time after you are gone. I think it has a harder time in this day and age but it just keeps going on.”

You can contact Dave and Cathy by writing to P.O. Box 33, Boonville, MO 65233 or visit their web site at