Presenting an album of all original instrumental tunes tests the capabilities of a performer, arguably, more than any other type of recording. Faced with such a prospect, most performers choose to include one or a couple of known tunes, if for no other reason than to give the listener a couple of footholds.
With his second release, mandolinist and tune-writer Tony Huber is going all in, writing all 13 tunes here, betting on his own creativity. For the most part, he succeeds. Backed in different configurations by Gretchen Priest-May on fiddle, Stan Lawrence on guitar and mandolin, David Boisvert on woodwinds and pennywhistle, Stuart Bonnington on banjo, and Bob Nobles on bass and guitar, the tunes he’s written have a light, lyrical appeal. While you don’t necessarily find yourself whistling them hours later, they are pleasant to hear and he draws on several musical styles. Several, including “River Waltz,” “Piney River,” and “Galway Coast” are Irish in sound and presentation, colored by Boisvert’s pennywhistle for added effect. Old-time and bluegrass are represented by the stately tunes “Just In Time,” “Beaux’s Grin,” and “Random Thoughts,” while a touch of Cajun creeps into “Natalie’s Stuff.”
A step above those is “Hungarian Caravan,” a gypsy-style tune with a slight Klezmer feel from Boisvert’s clarinet. Better still is “Marching With A Smile.” The title says it all. Big old parade drums (bass and snare) give this a lively kick and you can’t help but smile. That would be the album’s highlight were it not for the medieval sounding “Village Fete.” Paired down to mandolin, fiddle, and horns, it’s hard not to be drawn in by its mysterious sound.
Where this album falls a bit short is that the tempos are too similar. A couple of faster songs may have helped. (Tresbear Music, 573 Southerland Rd., Dickson, TN 37055 www.tresbearmusic.com)BW