Jamie Stillway and Eric Skye Craft Colorful Flatpicking Duets for a Batch of Old-Time Tunes on ‘Over the Waterfall’

The duo has crafted a colorful soundscape of quietly brilliant flatpicking interpretations of classic American fiddle tunes.
Eric Skye and Jamie Stillway seated with Santa Cruz acoustic guitars

With Over the Waterfall, Jamie Stillway and Eric Skye’s sophomore album, this idiosyncratic guitar duo from the Pacific Northwest has crafted a colorful soundscape of quietly brilliant flatpicking interpretations of classic American fiddle tunes.

Jamie Stillway and Eric Skye, Over the Waterfall (Self-released)

Stillway and Skye’s approach here calls to mind not just classic guitar duo work like the albums that Norman Blake and Tony Rice recorded for the Rounder label, but contemporary duets by Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage; the big-toned melodicism of flatpickers like Russ Barenberg and Scott Nygaard; and the chamber-jazz sensibilities of Oregon, featuring guitarist Ralph Towner. 

On the album, Stillway plays a sinker redwood and mahogany Santa Cruz Guitar Company 000, commissioned specifically for this project, and her partner uses his signature model red spruce and cocobolo 00-Skye, also made by Santa Cruz, as opposed to the dreadnoughts more commonly heard in traditional flatpicking. With these small-bodied instruments, the guitarists bring an aching, memorable intimacy to each note and chord.


In Stillway and Skye’s world, taste and touch trump flashy technique and tempo-pushing. Their glowing lines unfold at a pace that allows both players to shine as acoustic tone masters. Having worked together on similar traditional material for the past several years, both guitarists excel at subduing their own virtuosity for the greater good here. Together, they engineer complex but delightful arrangements of these seemingly simple tunes, like the sudden and enchanting shifts between the minor and major modes in “Cold Frosty Morning,” among many other bright moments.


Throughout the recording, Stillway, heard in the right channel, makes her guitar sing. She masterfully employs dramatic legato lines, as well as moments of rhythmic clarity that instantly ground the song to its native roots. Stillway’s playing is clear and expansive, as if she’s reaching for the sky. It’s swept along by dreamy chordal sweeps and languid improvisations, such as those on “Chinquapin Hunting.” 

Skye, on the left side, tends toward more of an earth-toned sonic palette, crafting exquisite lines and arpeggios that enhance—and even challenge—the melody. He employs more slurs and bends, as well as double-time picking, jazzy arpeggios, and eccentric rhythms, and he opts for a harsher pick attack, resulting a more guttural sound in many places. Skye clearly likes the grit and the gravel.

If you’re expecting the usual barn-burning renditions of these traditional fiddle tunes, you might be disappointed. But if you seek a world-class guitar duo that truly exalts the depth of tone inherent to the steel-string, Over the Waterfall showcases two brilliant pickers bringing a serene, lyrical spark to the ever-evolving world of 21st-century flatpicking guitar.

For reviews of more new recordings, visit acousticguitar.com/albumreviews.

Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 340

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

David McCarty
David McCarty

David McCarty plays guitar and mandolin and has opened for David Grisman and Ricky Skaggs.

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