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Song of the Banjo
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With The Song of the Banjo (Compass Records), her first album since 2009, GRAMMY-winning musician/composer/producer/entrepreneur Alison Brown plants another flag in her journey of musical exploration.
Acclaimed as one of today's finest progressive 5-string banjo players, the 2015 IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award/2014 United States Artist Fellowship recipient and Compass Records co-founder mixes seven masterful originals with six surprising covers of pop and rock classics from the 70s and 80s (Dance With Me, Feels So Good, Time After Time, Carolina in the Pines, I'll Never Fall in Love Again and the Deluxe Edition CD bonus track, What's Going On ), boldly going where no banjo album has gone before.
For their mission, Brown and her co-producer, husband, label co-founder and bassist Garry West have assembled an equally unconventional all-star ensemble, including Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, Keb Mo , Colin Hay, uke master Jake Shimabukuro, legendary studio drummer Steve Gadd, fiddler Stuart Duncan, Irish phenom guitarist John Doyle, bassist Todd Phillips, guitarist Jim Oblon, Dobro player Rob Ickes and pianists Will Barrow, Joe Davidian and John Jarvis.
Combining stunning virtuosity and unerring taste, Brown, with her signature model Prucha banjo (and on I ll Never Fall in Love Again, a custom wood-body banjola), creates a roots rainbow of folk, jazz, pop, Celtic, classical, Latin and Americana.
For Brown, arranging recent classics from The Great American Songbook for the Great American Instrument makes the listener hear banjo in a new way. Most listeners don't know how to hear what a banjo is doing, but in the context of a familiar tune they are able to hear the voice of the instrument, and understand what s unique about how it's played.
Dynamic, introspective and even romantic, The Song of the Banjo is an album for people who didn't know they liked the banjo. For banjo lovers, Alison Brown's new CD rekindles that affair.
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Without getting into a discussion as to who is the best Banjo player around let me say that being from the old school that needs a melody before it can be described as music then most of the likely contenders are already out for me. This album is full of melodies and songs and there are no weird noises to upset the harmony of those melodies. Alison has been making memorable music for years and is never backed by anything but the absolute best musicians. This record for instance includes Steve Gadd on the drums, maybe the best session drummer that there has ever been. The incomparable Stuart Duncan on violin and on and on. This is a wonderful recording in that the instruments are placed in their own space, have air around them and, well, sound like acoustic instruments should. Alison does not dominate the songs with inappropriate soloing but is there anchoring them like the banjo master that she is. Recognition is what is lacking and just maybe this will be the record that brings it.
This album really shows her off. Have seen her in concert and she makes it look so easy.