It’s not often that Blabber’n’Smoke reviews instrumental albums. Unlike Jazz, roots music is very much grounded in the human voice, narrative and action. However and especially in string band and bluegrass music instrumentals are vital, showcasing prowess and occasionally virtuosity.
The trio of Brittany Haas (fiddle), Paul Kowart (double bass) and Jordan Tice (guitar) have decided that their debut album will be wordless, letting their instruments do the talking and in the end it’s a fine story they tell. Taking time off from their day jobs with Crooked Still (Haas), The Punch Brothers and The David Rawlings Machine (Kowert) and Tony Trischka (Tice) the three have taken a basic country style and added an almost classical sheen to it with the double bass in particular benefiting from the close up sound they achieve as Kowert plucks and more importantly bows his bass giving it equal footing with Haas’ tremendous fiddle playing and Tice’s very nimble fretwork.
While Down The Hatch and The Switchback Games are quite traditional in style over the rest of the album the trio play with time signatures, abrupt dynamic and mood changes and season these with dashes of classical influences ranging from impressionistic Debussy like swells and Bartok influenced folk themes. The result is a very pleasing venture that repays repeated listens as different solos or passages capture your attention. Currently The Decade is the stand out tune with its atmospheric feel up there with the best of Ry Cooder’s soundtrack work while Better Off’s almost medieval court guitar curlicues are impressive.