I have always enjoyed the music of Tony Trischka, as he represents the bubbling up of banjo music from more urban climes. Trischka is steeped in Scruggs-style banjo playing and can rip some traditional bluegrass with the best of them. Yet, he’s always followed his own musical muse, and his open mind has served him well.
Trischka’s latest album is the appropriately titled Great Big World, and it will delight those with an expanded ear. Backing him on this project is Mike Compton on mandolin, Michael Daves on guitar, Mike Barnett on fiddle, and Skip Ward on bass. What sets this album apart is the many special guests brought in by Trischka to help put his expansive musical vision together. He brings forth many original tunes here, such as the melodic “The Danny Thomas,” the seven-minute “Great Big World”/“Purple Trees Of Colorado,” and the string-quartet feel of “Lost” featuring Abigail Washburn on vocals. “Wild Bill Hickock” finds Trischka playing with old friends and collaborators Russ Barenberg and Andy Statman. The epic number was written because Trischka felt that “Wild Bill was under-represented in the Western lore song canon,” and it features wonderful cameos by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, actor John Goodman, Kristin Andreissen, and Stephanie Coleman.
Steve Martin pairs his clawhammer skills with Trischka on “Promontory Point,” and Tony tweaks the standard “Angeline The Baker” with Aoife O’Donovan. In classic Trischka tradition, he blends five songs together, each written for the individual strings on his banjo, in a piece called “Single String Medley.” He also plays an unusual arrangement of “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” based on a live tape of Bill Monroe and Clyde Moody from 1940. (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.)DH