ADAM STEFFEY, NEW PRIMITIVE
Organic Records OR14692
Though he is often found in somewhat contemporary groups (AKUS, Mountain Heart, and currently the Boxcars), Adam Steffey is at heart a traditional mandolinist. Fully a master of spinning modern lines and interesting twists, he is equally masterful among the older styles and with the older tunes. That love and command of tradition, along with his always bright, clear tone and impeccable timing and feel, is fully displayed on this latest release, featuring three old songs and ten fiddle tunes performed in a variety of settings (solo mandolin or mandolin with just banjo, or fiddle or guitar or mandolin in a full band context with bass) and performed in a manner that hovers between old-time and bluegrass.
From the old-time side are the tunes themselves: “Chinquapin,” “Big-Eyed Rabbit,” and “Rock The Cradle Joe.” While any and all are found in bluegrass circles, few are what you’d call bluegrass staples. Also from the old-time sound is the inclusion throughout the album of clawhammer banjo, here played by Steffey’s wife, Tina. Her playing is spot-on impressive on all her tracks, but shines particularly on the banjo/mandolin duet “Johnny Don’t Get Drunk.” Her other contributions are solid, but that one really goes. Eddie Bond provides very nice old-time fiddle and sings “Raleigh And Spencer” and “Big-Eyed Rabbit” with good punch.
From the bluegrass side comes the general overall drive and feel, but also the playing of bassist Barry Bales, fiddler Samantha Snyder, and guitarist Zeb Snyder. Samantha sings nicely on what is the album’s most contemporary piece, the slow and lilting “Who Will Sing For Me.” She also duets, instrumentally, with Steffey on “Fine Times At Our House.” Her brother Zeb turns in several fine melodic and creative guitar solos. “Goodbye Girls I’m Going To Boston” stands out.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not being impressed by the musicianship of Steffey and his guests on this recording. It is equally hard to imagine anyone not finding this an enjoyable listening experience. (Organic Records, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.organic-records.com.)BW