Ragged and rangy in all the right ways, longtime string music ambassadors Mike Compton and banjo/guitar/vocalist Joe Newberry combine forces for a striking live set of rousing old-time string band music. Compton, whose career has spanned everything from solo mandolin CDs to the Nashville bluegrass music scene and even Hollywood film soundtracks, never sounded more at ease and in command than he does here. One listen to his glorious retelling of Bill Monroe’s standout “Evening Prayer Blues” leaves no doubt he’s one of the contemporary players still showing us the path to Monroe’s ancient tones.
Newberry is a powerhouse of a performer. Confident and classic in his vocal delivery, he can belt out tunes like “Rocky Road Blues” and “Raleigh And Spencer” with powerhouse rhythm guitar and a straight-from-the-still authenticity to his performances. Just as easily, he turns around and emphatically presents all the emotion caught up inside an old chestnut like “Kentucky Waltz.”
Across the dozen tunes here, these master musicians carry the listener across a bevy of styles and genres. There’s country blues on “How Long Blues,” where Compton’s precision intro perfectly captures Newberry’s charming sense of style and nuance. The interplay between guitar and mandolin here is a perfect example of two musicians playing exactly what is needed without ever intruding on each other’s performance. Captured in excellent audio quality, you can hear every note pop from Compton’s mandolin, and the rhythm strums and strong bass runs from Newberry’s vintage Gibson lay down a perfect foundation. When Newberry takes a lead, it’s never flashy or out of place, just a quietly competent flow of notes that all contribute to the fuller sound.
Live At Brandywine Friends showcases two superb musicians utterly in control of their approach to a classic American musical form—the string duo. This is the music where bluegrass first grew from, and for fans of those more primitive,