David Royko Psy.D
On The Edge
CD review by David Royko
Sugar Hill SUG-CD-4056
Banjoist Chris Pandolfi is among the new crop of young red hot pickers currently making their marks in bands of fellow firebrands--in his case, The Infamous Stringdusters.
All of the Strindusters help out Pandolfi (bassist Travis Book, mandolinist Jesse Cobb, fiddler Jeremy Garrett, resonator guitarist Andy Hall, guitarist Andy Falco), along with former member (and current Punch Brother guitarist) Chris Eldridge, the Matt Flinner Trio (mandolinist Flinner, guitarist Ross Martin, bassist Eric Thorin), fiddler Stuart Duncan, and bassist Byron House.
No standards here (at least not yet), the eleven newgrassy instrumentals coming from Pandolfi’s pen, and as solo projects by banjoists, this one has a somewhat understated vibe--not much flash, even on the fastest numbers, while some of the most affecting moments come courtesy slower pieces, particularly “Big Bend,” with Flinner’s trio in support--my pick as the most likely future standard.
In fact, this album seemed to take a bit longer than usual to sink in, but it did. Tunes like “Close Encounters” (it seems many of the younger guys find inspiration in Sci Fi movies, like Nickel Creek’s Matrix-motivated “This Side,” and this one) seems to glide along nicely, though with repeated hearings, the contours come to sound less predictable even as they become familiar.
The disc’s closer is a duet for banjo and bass, again, somewhat introspective, with an appropriate title, “Melancholy,” encapsulating much of Pandolfi’s style--satisfying to listen to as long as you give it some time and your full attention. (Sugar Hill Records, PO Box 120897, Nashville, TN 37212; sugarhillrecords.com) DR