All Out Front

Rising mandolin star Scott Napier’s career and life are on an upward trajectory. He’s just joined Wildfire as their new mandolinist, and he’s married to the stellar Lauren Price Napier of the Price Sisters, one of the top players and teachers of the pure Monroe-style bluegrass mandolin embodied by the likes of Mike Compton and Chris Henry.

So, it’s no surprise Napier’s reissued an earlier solo CD, All Out Front, to get his earlier music and respectfully innovative mandolin style out to a broader audience. Over 12 tunes, Napier displays a crisp, controlled right hand that on tunes like “Dash Hound” remind the listener of the styles of Herschel Sizemore or Doyle Lawson, where each note stands like an etching on fine crystal.

Versatile and broad, Napier leads his ensemble through a brisk Djangoesque swing ditty titled “Young One” with sass and joie d’vie. None of that sissy Frenchness in his next selection, however, a punchy, propulsive rendition of Monroe’s “Bluegrass Stomp.” First solo, he channels Big Mon like a $50 psychic at Coney Island; second solo goes on a lunar trajectory Bezos only wishes he could achieve. How about a duet of this on the next solo CD with the better half, Scott?

As we’ve come to expect in these hard money for music times, the CD comes only with a simple cardboard sleeve. That means a lack of info on the CD, especially who’s playing on which tracks, which makes it somewhat difficult to single out specific solos. But no worries. It’s the music, not the cast list, that matters here. Several songs are originals, with a handful of standards like ※Bluegrass Stomp” and Bobby Osbone’s effervescent “Cherokee Lady.” Twining up with the tune’s author, Napier shows his deep understanding of Osborne’s post-Monroe mandolin melodic expansions. Such a great tune and a perfect bluegrass mandolin duet.

The soaring Dale Ann Bradley sings lead on “Life’s Hourglass,” enhanced by Napier’s intuitive backup and fills. Other guests include Michael Cleveland, Clay Hess, Don Rigsby and more. Nice group of friends to drop by the studio for your project.

“Traveler’s Rest” delivers driving, diesel-perfumed and brake oil-splattered bluegrass like they love in southwest Ohio. After a blasting solo from Cleveland, Napier and Hess take the wheel, never looking for the runaway pullout.

Napier got it right when he titled this, All Out Front. You get his bluegrass soul and passion for tradition, merged with a blend of more modern and swing-influenced tunes all on display. Hoping for another solo outing with major label backing soon for this emerging force.

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