Aaron Ramsey (mandolin), Bryan McDowell (fiddle), Cory Walker (banjo), Jake Stargel (guitar), and Jeff Partin (bass) have created a masterpiece of an instrumental album that ranges from frolicking dance music and blazing bluegrass to post-modern Dawg sounds. The album was “recorded pretty dang live,” says Cory Walker in the liner notes. “It might even sound like we were dancing all night with bottles in our hands,” he allows.
“Shakin’ Down The Acorns” is fast paced—delicate and driving at the same time. McDowell’s fiddle kicks off “Dance All Night” with a sprightly, square dance groove. The B part includes a sideways melodic quote from “Hot Corn, Cold Corn.” “Snowflake Reel,” a perennial favorite of the Grand Ole Opry Square Dancers, is rendered impressively here, beginning with a sweet flatpicked guitar break from Stargel, followed by understated melody and tremolo from Aaron Ramsey on mandolin, and a pull on the fiddle bow from McDowell.
On “Veil Of Questions,” the melody is ethereal and thoughtful. There’s a tasty bass break from Jeff Parton and exquisite fiddle layers. Partin creates a “river of resonator guitar” effect, and Ramsey’s mandolin paddles the song along. “A Lost Partner’s Promenade,” another Ramsey original, hits a comfortable groove and delivers. There are some banjo trills and patterns that possibly haven’t been heard on a bluegrass album before, and Aaron’s mandolin simply sings. “Pouches,” written by Stargel, is reflective and meandering and spotlights his guitar magic. “Paddy On The Turnpike” kicks off with Ramsey’s capable hands on the mandolin.
On “Rat King,” written by Cory Walker, the banjo almost speaks words. Both this tune and “King And Water” sound like movie scores that reference some intriguing story. “Koopa’s Road,” the iconic Koji Kondo Nintendo composition from Super Mario 64 is incredibly fun (especially for gamers who are familiar with the electronic version of the song). The album ends with a creative, slightly twisted version of Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in the key of G minor, which sounds like the band is barreling down a particularly dark and haunted stretch of Thunder Road at 100 miles an hour. Enjoy! (Mountain Fever, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)NC