Andrew Collins, the talented Canadian mandolinist, composer and mando-family master, has a lot on his mind these days. “Throughout my years of playing music, community, collaboration and compassion have always been the cornerstone of it all,” Collins says explaining his decision to record the first solo album of his distinguished career following the lingering pandemic and loss of social connection it spawned. As Bob Marley believed music could root out and reform evil and racism, Collins seems to make the same appeal here but with the humor to name one tune “Crash & Burn/2020 You Were A Real Jerk.”
Repeatedly, Collins produces ear-friendly melodies, draped in compelling harmonies that showcase not just his writing chops, but his formidable playing skills, as well. “I Miss You Already” is a lilting fiddle tune of a melody showing his Reischman influence, with more of a French-Canadian feel to it. “Kris Sutter” is a more Appalachian-sound in melody, sprightly and upbeat with lovely twin mandolin. “1973” draws the listener into a quieter, more reflective sound.
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” a different tune from the bombastic proto-hip-hop protest tune from Gil Scott-Herron in the ‘70s, carries a deliberate, almost ponderous momentum driven by mandocello and mandola. Again, lovely instrumental harmonies and lovely instrument tones carry the day here.
“A Pony Named Fox” has a fairy tale quality to it, like the musical soundtrack for an animated film about Canadian moose fairies and singing rainbow trout saving the forest. Collins says the melody honors the “hillbilly chamber music” crafted by Norman and Nancy Blake, and there are clear elements of that style here. The title tune shows Collins’ bluegrass side, with nice flatpicking guitar supported by a chunky mandolin rhythm.
Collins takes his composing seriously, and he’s been a frequent instructor at mandolin and bluegrass camps for years. To support that goal, here he thoughtfully includes a 68-page spiral-bound book with the notation and tablature for each part on each tune, along with more insight into each song and playing tips for aspiring students.
Love Away The Hate, beyond being an excellent example of the many talents of Andrew Collins, also ties in with the content thread we’re finding throughout bluegrass today that music can—and must—help bridge our troubled waters and create a beacon for hope. Well done.