As the musical bar rises, seemingly every few years, so too the number of extremely talented musicians. That presents problems. For one, how much do you praise someone playing on a level, at least technically, as good or better than the greats of ten or twenty years ago? Is a mandolinist such as Jared Finck a standout or one among many?
Finck himself might argue against any undue praise. He, like most musicians, probably set out to be simply as good as he could. Where that has taken him is to this debut, a recording of 14 original instrumentals on which he is supported by banjoist Justin Moses, guitarists Cody Kilby and Joel Finck, bassists Byron House and Josh Finck and fiddler Andy Leftwich, and which reveals Jared as a mandolinist of exceptional ability. His dexterity gives him fluidity when the tempos rise or when figures become intricate. His tone is light and crystalline in the manner of many of today’s players, and he can be quite creative.
Where he has a little trouble is as a composer, sustaining diversity across 14 originals. Individually, any song here can hold a listener’s interest, and there are certainly a number that differ from all the others. “Peaceful Time,” for example, has a Bach-like arpeggio feel. “Heros,” for another, shifts and changes through many rhythms and melodies as Finck honors his favorite mandolinists. “Ya Got That?” is a bass and mandolin duet with his brother (simulating their practice jams), while “One Cold Night” is a shimmering solo resonator piece, and “Beaver Creek” is a largely traditional-based bluegrass grinder.
There are, however, no less than five that sound vaguely similar, and while that doesn’t take much away from the recording as a whole, it does lessen the overall impact a little. Still, there is much from a very talented player to be admired here. (Jared Finck, 30448 427th Ave., Tabor, SD 57063, www.jaredfinck.com.)BW