Saturday, February 18, 2012

Andy Statman: Nashville Mornings, New York Nights (1986)


(Rounder)

RECOMMENDED

On the basis of the delightful cover alone, I had to investigate this $1 item seen in a record store bargain bin. Expecting kitsch, I was instead given a prestigious experience, the most mindbending mandolin showcase this side of Bill Monroe. Statman's music is a bit hard to explain succinctly; influenced equally by klezmer and country, he plays clarinet in addition to the mandolin and his work hops and strides through genres with improvisational chutzpah and great band interplay. His excellent band here (including Bela Fleck) runs through these alternately soothing and audacious instrumental pieces at a cheerfully advanced pace.

Your favorite material here will depend on your feelings about bluegrass raveups and fiddle interludes ("Old Country" and "Apple Pickin' Girl" are strong examples), but there's plenty of pretty, intricate picking here along with some hyperactive complexity that belies the theoretically basic arrangements; listen to the way Statman and company fly up and over the boogie-woogie groove on "Ariela's First Step." As strong, dignified, joyous as all of the record is, it's best when it lapses into romance ("Joshua's Waltz") or eccentricity ("I Do Not Ride the Horse"). Best of all, the record ends with the mandolin-bluegrass equivalent of an apocalyptic Lou Reed freakout, a fun speculation all by itself. $1 well spent for sure.

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