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   Julian Pinelli’s masterful fiddling fits perfectly with the modern approach to bluegrass and new acoustic music. Gorgeous tone, phrasing that harkens back to his roots in North Carolina that still carries a modern edge, technique that could play almost any style, and a gifted ear for crafting melodies that lay out beautifully not just on violin, but for the other players, as well.

Over a too-short eight songs here, Pinelli doesn’t break a lot of new ground. But he creates a mesmerizing sound, especially when bassist Dan Klingsberg plays harmony using the bass bow. Mandolinist Tristan Scroggins is as good as it gets, fleet-fingered and always happy to blaze through a fingerbuster of a solo or a fiendishly complex crosspicking lick. Flatpicker Sam Leslie commands a stout, robust tone in his solos, more concerned with melody and music than hot licks. Matthew Davis’ banjo clearly reflects his close study of modern players like Bela Fleck, but his playing also contains the inner punch and drive that separates great bluegrass banjo players from the also-rans. Together, these players form a tight, great-sounding instrumental band.

Pinelli’s brilliant original “Simple Mountains” is a gem, rolling and rollicking like a twigwater stream through his native Blue Ridge Mountains—the sort of tune that gets absorbed into the camp jam culture once it’s more widely heard. “Flannery’s Dream” gives Pinelli a chance to show off his Bobby Hicks shuffle and wide tonal range on a hard-driving song that’s surely a foot-stomper when they do it live. Pinelli comes across as a strong singer here, too. “Handsome Molly” is a nice take on an old standard on which the fiddler gets a chance to show his vocal chops.

Bent Creek is a great debut from a wonderfully talented player, performer, and composer who treads the waters between new and old with grace. Look for more fine work from this young violinist down the line. (www.julianpinelli.com)DJM

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