Great bluegrass and new acoustic instrumental music abides here in the twenty-first century. Buoyed by the stellar achievements of instrumental pioneers like Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Tony Rice, David Grier, Tony Trischka, Sam Bush, and Bela Fleck, and on to more contemporary artists like Chris Thile, Sierra Hull and more, modern players are creating a stunning and lasting legacy to create their own instrumental musical voyages.
Into that fertile plain steps mandolinist David Benedict. Returning to his Boston homebase after three years in Nashville, Benedict has sprouted up through the roughest city concrete to bring a fresh blossom of gorgeous acoustic music to the world on The Golden Angle. Host of the popular weekly Internet feature Mandolin Mondays, Benedict has gathered a collection of fellow virtuosi to flesh out and decorate a set of 11 originals praised by none other than mandolin legend John Reischman as “having everything I love to hear in an instrumental album.” High praise indeed.
With Matt Flinner co-producing, the album creates a fresh, vibrant sound that never comes across as forced or artificial. These are beautiful melodies, shaped into memorable music by the talented ensemble. “Possible Water” splashes clear harmony passages, melding Benedict’s mandolin with Stuart Duncan’s lithe fiddle, the hippest of hip bass lines from Missy Raines, and Wes Corbett’s ever-clever banjo licks. “Waltz For Griffin” drips musical color and soul, as mandolin and bass trace the arc of a somber melody. Duncan’s dark-toned fiddle merges perfectly with the ensemble, setting up a truly lovely banjo solo by Corbett and a lyrical guitar solo from Ross Martin.
The title-track follows a bluegrass-friendly four-bar beat, supporting a melody tinged with old sounds that rises to a modern degree of precision and musical grace. Benedict, who has emerged as one of today’s leading mandolin educators at camps and workshops, displays a clear-headed, inviting mandolin tone that dances along as the melody progresses here. “Leaf By Niggle” is another tune deep in the new-acoustic vein, with more great solos from Martin and Duncan. Lest this CD become bogged down in slow-tempoed, wandering melodies (which it does from time to time, such as on “Madrona”), Benedict hands down “Lawnmower,” an up-tempo bluegrass race with the devil where David Grier gets to show the brilliance and individuality that have made him a unique voice on guitar. Benedict answers right back, engaging in a killer exchange with Raines and fiddler Mike Barnett.
The Golden Anglerefracts the light of David Benedict into a bluegrass instrumental spectrum—some light, some dark, and always entertaining and engaging. Between his work in the Boston-based bluegrass band Mile Twelve, the leading light he’s become in mandolin education and transcription, and this excellent solo CD, David Benedict has emerged as one of the instrument’s leading players, composers, and performers today. Highly recommended. (www.davidbenedictmusic.com)DJM