Arnie Naiman is one of the leading exponents of old-time banjo and an important figure on the Canadian old-time and bluegrass scene. He has influenced many players and is held in high regard especially in the old-time scene. Most of the cuts here are his originals, with the exception of the traditional tune “Boatsman” and Jim Childress’ tune “Square Peg.” Childress also fiddles on this cut.
Naiman demonstrates his dexterous approach with two-finger picking and clawhammer style. His touch is masterful in both styles. His humor shows when he reveals in the liner notes that “Slipping And Sliding” was written about the dreaded Polar Vortex of 2013. In a medley with the aforementioned “Boatsman,” the twin fiddles by his daughter Hannah Shira Naiman and John Showman drive the tunes along with skill.
Naiman plays three different banjos, ranging from a ringing steel-string sound to plunky nylon or gut-string sounds. The introspective title cut, played in a two-finger style nicely displays the introspective power of the old-time banjo. Chris Coole is featured quite a bit here on guitar and does so with great taste. The tracks range from band format to solo, with several just featuring guitar and banjo. The opening cut, “Catch Of The Day,” features a cutting fiddle line by John Showman who also fiddles elsewhere on their project. Max Heineman plays bass on the band cuts.
Old-time banjo does not follow the rules of bluegrass. Sometimes the cuts can be slow and pensive. Here, it never gets that trashy sound that was so prevalent on commercial recordings in years gone by. We are treated to a wide sonic range, capturing many emotions and states of mind from introspection to joy. Great stuff for listening indeed. (Merriweather Records, 109 Crawford Rose Dr., Aurora, ON, L4G 4S1, Canada, www.merriweather.ca.)RCB