Ken Perlman is both a pioneer of the 5-string banjo style known as “melodic clawhammer” and a master of fingerstyle guitar. He is considered one of the top clawhammer players in the world, known in particular for his skillful adaptations of Celtic tunes to the style. He draws his material from traditional sources – the music of Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and the American South. His approach to the music, however, is highly innovative. He has developed many new instrumental techniques, and much of his repertoire has never before been played on 5-string banjo or guitar.
Ken is an acclaimed teacher of folk-music instrumental skills. He has written some of the most widely respected banjo and guitar instruction books of modern times, and he has been on staff at prestigious teaching festivals around the world. He has also served as director, or co-director for many banjo and music-instructional camps. As an active folklorist, Ken has spent over a decade collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada. The first outgrowths of his research were a tune book called The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island and a two-CD anthology of field recordings, both of which received awards from the PEI Heritage Foundation. In 2015, his oral history based book Couldn’t Have a Wedding Without the Fiddler: the Story of Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island was published. Look for Ken's new CD Frails & Frolics.
Ken is also curator of a new website devoted to PEI fiddling, based on his writing and field recordings. Ken has many recordings to his credit, and has been performing on the acoustic music circuit since the late 1970s, from folk clubs to festivals, coffee houses to colleges. He has toured across North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Western Europe and Australia, including duet tours with the late fiddler, Alan Jabbour.