THE BANJO COLUMNS: TUNES, TECHNIQUES, POSTULATIONS AND MUSINGS
BY LEON HUNT.
Paperback, £12 (U.K.), $23 (U.S.), www.leonhunt.com.
This is a compilation of columns that Hunt wrote for Acoustic Magazine, which is published in the U.K. He presents some interesting viewpoints and unique perspectives from this vantage point. The landmarks for his references are different than those of the more traditional bluegrass players in The States. He sites Earl Scruggs, of course, and Allen Shelton, Ralph Stanley, and John Hartford. He’s also influenced by Bela Fleck and Pete Seeger. This is an eclectic set of banjo players, all of whom were uniquely their own man.
Each column includes a particular topic, often citing a particular banjo player and then explaining their style. Each column is accompanied by a tab that demonstrates his points. This is all fingerstyle tab. He goes into Celtic styles and folk styles, along with some jazz soloing ideas. The banjo knows no limits in this book. There’s a wide range to the tunes presented here, and each one has its purpose. There is a lot of attention to the tasks of getting good tone, articulating the melody both down the neck and up the neck, and insights into getting the most from the banjo. Hunt spends time talking about phrasing, how to play fast and sound good, and has a very nice column on modes with tabbed examples.
This is an interesting book with lots of food for thought and tabs of lots of bluegrass and non-bluegrass material to work on and try out. He’s obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the banjo and how to play it. He attempts things in three-finger-style that many wouldn’t think to try, and he shares how it works. Included is a glowing introduction by Ron Block. The book also provides a description of the tab, some brief roll patterns, and a discussion on picks and what to look for in a banjo. With over thirty tunes presented here, there’s a lot of value in this book.RCB