The secret to success is knowing your strengths and how to build upon them. Mr. Cantor does just this on this nine cut project. Surrounding himself with some of the best pickers in the Bay Area, this Californian shares the spotlight with them, resulting in an interesting project that falls into the progressive realm of bluegrass à la Dawg music on a banjo. With David Thom on guitar, Chad Manning and Leif Karlstrom on fiddle, and Tyler Balthrop on mandolin and bass, the ensemble sound is rich and varied. Thom and Manning really shine throughout. Cantor is a solid banjo player that knows when to hold them and when to fold them and his playing is always tasteful.
Young banjo players are always coming along and this is good for the music. This young man wrote seven of the nine tracks, with “Cherokee Shuffle” and a medley of “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and “Train 45” not being of his pen. Although he stamps his mark on them, these performances are not as interesting as the newer material as he noodles around following melodic ideas without the driving traditional licks from the tradition. He does explore aspects few have searched through in these tunes. His original material is not mainstream bluegrass but consists explorations of modalities with nods to interesting genres. There is a bit of the gypsy jazz here, some adventurous Middle Eastern spice and a generous mixing of progressive bluegrass clichés with these other flavors. The musicians drive though these tunes with a seemingly effortless skill that brings the melodies to life. (www.isaacecantor.com)RCB