Underneath this fiddle veneer lurks an accomplished violinist. At least it sounds that way to country ears. This evidence pops out of the speakers on the 12th cut, “Cadenza From The Fiddle Concerto.” I’m pretty sure Bill Monroe did not write this one, as Carlson claims it as his own. In fact, Carlson is the grandson of Athens, Ga., fiddle icon and legend Earl Murphy, from whom he began learning fiddle at age five.
This is a first-rate fiddle recording featuring some much better than average support from Casey Cook on guitar, Keith Morris on bass, Michael Smith on mandolin, and Greg Earnest on banjo. All members of the band, with the exception of Earnest, sing on this project at one time or other. All offer up some fine picking in various styles. The program is a mix of traditional and original material. The band is up to the task as they jump from edgy newer material to covering an old fiddle favorite such as “14 Days In Georgia.” They perform a lush, atmospheric version of “Be Thou My Vision,” and Carlson’s reading of “Chestnut Waltz” is sweet and complex in textbook contest style, with rich harmonies and moving lines. They turn around and swing hard on “Busy Fingers” with great picking where everyone shines. Earnest takes an especially nice banjo break, which is a challenge in a swing number. Then they bear down on a hard-driving version of the old chestnut “I’ll Be On That Good Road Someday.”
This is fine recording with more than enough to recommend it to those who like great fiddle playing and contemporary bluegrass. Interestingly, this one keeps slipping back into the CD player. (Andy Carlson, Dept. of Music, Box M, Denison University, Granville, OH 43023.)RCB