One of the best ways to guage an instrumentalist is to consider their handling of the standards. There are two such standards on Nick Amodeo’s all-instrumental, six-song debut. One is “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” the other is Bill Monroe’s “The Evening Prayer Blues.” On both of those, Amodeo stays fairly close to the original theme. That is particularly true of “The Evening Prayer Blues,” a tune rarely given to excessive improvisation. Following a rhythmically-free string of blues licks, he settles into the first of two passes that he makes through the theme. Within those passes, his variations are subtle, a triplet here or an added note or two, and I particularly liked his use of tremelos of various lengths and his use of overdubbed mandolin drone backing. On “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” he states the melody with a minimum of flourish, then returns with his variant solo on which he inverts the broken scale patterns around the melody somewhat, though never so much that you lose sight of it.
The remaining four tracks are his originals. “Falyn’s Day Out” with a “B” section hinting at “Lonesome Fiddle Blues,” opens the recording with a rush and with colorful and lively soloing all around. That’s followed by “Red Hill Pass,” a minor-ish tune with “Jerusalem Ridge” overtones. Again, well done. The other two are waltzes, one being “Suwanee Belle” reminiscent of “Ashoken Farewell,” the other being “Waltz For Anna Lee.” The latter was made more interesting by the placement of the F chord in the G Major progression.
All through this enjoyable recording, Amodeo presents a clean, nicely-spaced attack, a clear, singing tone, and a good understanding of presenting his music. He is creatively and expertly backed by fiddler Coleman Smith, guitarist Ross Martin, banjoist Matt Flinner, and bassist Ian Hutchison. (Nick Amodeo, P.O. Box 101105, Denver CO 80250, www.nickamodeomusic.com.)BW