For those who have ever wondered how Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson would approach the same tune, like say Bill Monroe’s “Pilgrim’s Knob” or Tommy Jackson’s “Crazy Creek,” here’s your opportunity to find out. Hearing their styles juxtaposed, particularly on the four mandolin-only duets, proves to be informative and satisfying and, most importantly, just plain good listening.
Traditional-based bluegrass, with a tip of the hat towards Bill Monroe, both directly and stylistically, is the core of where both of these guys come from and what they’ve programmed predominantly for this recording, tunes including a crackling version of Bill Emerson’s “Sweet Dixie,” one of the highlight tracks. “Owensboro Train,” written by Bibey and Benson and played as a mandolin duet, and “Wilkes County Breakdown” (a Benson original) are certainly at heart traditional-based fiddle tunes, little different in conception from the Monroe and Jackson tunes. Both are very good and get good airings.
Of course, anyone who’s ever listened to either of these guys knows that while their roots are in tradition, neither one shies away from stepping outside the bounds or from applying the latest contemporary mandolin ideas. You’re going to hear explosive tremolo slides and double-time passages and lines built on floating drones. Moreover, you’re going to hear them writing and covering tunes that have contemporary flair. “Black Friday” (a Bibey and Benson original), whole-tone colored and funky, falls in that category, as does the moderate shuffle and hanging phrases of the mandolin duet “Surfside,” and the jazzy and dreamy “Pamela’s Waltz” with its atmospherics and shape-shifting chord progression. And, of course, no one’s going to mistake Charlie Parker’s bop tune, “Now’s The Time,” for an undiscovered Monroe track. Either way though, it’s just plain good listening.
Fiddler and banjoist Ron Stewart, bassist Harold Nixon, and guitarist Wyatt Rice play on seven tracks. Russell Moore sings lead on the bluesy “Another Night.” (Pinecastle Records, 2881 NC 108 Hwy. E, Columbus NC 28722, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW