It sometimes takes a while to build up a few suitable releases to feature in Bluegrass Briefs, but when the good stuff comes along, it’s worth waiting for.
Hildaland’s debut album ‘Sule Skerry’ could easily have featured in our folk roundup. It’s here because it highlights the roots of Bluegrass. The second tune here ‘Silver Dollar’ has the characteristic chopping mandolin rhythm and the tying yourself in knots soloing that we know and love from the best Bluegrass. Elsewhere, on ‘Ettrick’ for instance, the music sits almost halfway between the Highlands and the Appalachians. Folk singing over a Bluegrass tune. As this is the work of Scottish Fiddle player Louise Bichan and American mandolinist Ethan Setiawan that blend is hardly surprising. It is a cracking album whether you a[approach it from Folk or Bluegrass.
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Next, we have The Joy River’s Special Band from South America. Three Argentinians and one Chilean playing some of the purest traditional Bluegrass you’ll find. Jose Luis Gomez’ banjo leads the way on most of the five tunes here. It sounds like a great time was being had by all when this was being played. Maybe not the highest quality recording, and things get a bit disorganized, but this is a party on vinyl and is worth hearing just for that reason alone.
Mighty Poplar is a new all-star roots project featuring Andrew Marlin of Watchhouse, Noam Pikelny and Chris Eldridge of Punch Brothers, bassist Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon) and fiddler Alex Hargreaves (Billy Strings). ‘A Distant Land to Roam’ kicks in as you would expect with a raucous free for all of a song. Another album where the production has not been polished too heavily, and all the better for it. Highlights are plentiful, but on this play it’s ‘Blackjack Davy’ that is standing out. You wouldn’t expect anything less than a great album from the participants and that’s what we have here.
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‘School Project’ is the new album from Cory Walker. He has a list of credits including Keith Urban, Earl Scruggs, Tim O’Brien, Ricky Skaggs. His Banjo playing is well up to the intricate standard required for the best Bluegrass. ‘Far Away Again’ features Tim O’Brien on vocals, and a scorching dobro solo from Gaven Largent that is just getting going as the track fades. This is a really good debut album with a variety of styles in or around Bluegrass. Billy Contreras gypsy Jazz fiddle solo on ‘Javelina Breakdown’ as well as more of Largent’s dobro. Walekr himself takes a dobro solo on the gentle ‘Marlin’s Waltz‘.