After my first listening to True Grass Revival by Marteka and William Lake, I knew what I was going to say: Wow! Marteka, at age 15, is already a banjo player who demonstrates much depth. She has obviously studied Earl Scruggs in detail, and she showcases his arrangements with the touch of a seasoned musician while never sounding like a cloying copycat. Her playing is crisp (Bill Emerson-like), her tone is nuanced, her notes pop, and her timing reflects an older bluegrass style rather than today’s more metronomic cadences. She tackles not only “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” but also Earl’s harder tunes like “Shuckin’ The Corn,” “Ground Speed,” and “Nashville Blues.” Her ear-catching high break on “Old Joe Clark” unleashes a perfectly-timed glissando (fancy word for a long slide!) up to the 17th fret and a neatly-placed 12th fret choke.
If I’ve laid it on pretty thick about Marteka, that’s because this 11-song CD is all banjo all the time with the exception of guitar breaks from younger brother William on “Foggy Mountain Special” and “Wildwood Flower.” William also provides solid rhythm guitar (with echoes of Charlie Monroe) along with rhythm mandolin chops, which I first mistook for a snare drum. Charley Lake, the third musician, plays bass. There are also four vocals—“Salty Dog Blues,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Six White Horses,” and “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”—which feature William doing the lead and Marteka adding the tenor. Their singing hasn’t quite caught up with their playing yet—it sounds like the siblings are still trying on vocal styles and experimenting with harmony—but their song choices show that they are sinking their roots deep into early bluegrass.
Is there room for growth here? Sure. But a strong foundation has already been laid. I can’t wait to see what Marteka and William build on it. Good luck! (Marteka & William Lake, 62 River Breeze Rd., Hacker Valley, WV 26222, www.marteka-n-williamlakebluegrass.com.)MHH