MARK OLITSKY & CARY MOSKOVITZ
Two men with two banjos make some fascinating music. Olitsky plays a minstrel banjo, one of those nylon or gut-strung massive wonders that troll an octave below most banjos. Moskovitz plays three different plectrum banjos. Plectrum banjos have a neck as long as a five-string, but only have four stings. You’ve probably heard them used in entirely different ways than they are here. Here, it’s often capoed up, lending it a sound similar to a tenor banjo.
So you may be thinking two banjos, nothing else? That’s right, and it’s a wonderful trip they take us on. There are three cuts with vocals, all nicely done with unusual verses. The program is rich with 17 cuts ranging from well-known old-time fiddle tunes to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” which works quite nicely in this setting. There is a thoughtful pacing to the music, and the two banjos produce a far more nuanced sound than one might expect. By playing off of each other’s rhythms, they achieve a complexity that belies there are only two instruments involved.
Their are vocals on the old chestnut “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane” marked by some sinister verses of an unrepentant sinner. The exuberant “Black Eyed Susie” is about quite a gal to have inspired this version of this song. The ever bluesy “Hop High Lula Gal” is their take on Fred Cockerham’s “Roustabout,” full of blues influences and rich with subtleties.
This project is a wonder of banjo sounds that emphasizes space and subtleties over notes and bombast. If you love banjo music, this little gem is a dandy with a lot to offer. If you love old-time banjo, miss it at your own peril. (www.olitskymoskovitz.com)RCB