NICK HORNBUCKLE, TWELVE BY TWO (PLUS OR MINUS ONE)
On 12×2(+/-1), Nick Hornbuckle, Washington State banjo player for John Reischman and the Jaybirds, presents a striking instrumental album showcasing his unique two-finger picking style on a thoughtful selection of mostly traditional tunes. The title refers to twelve tunes, played with two fingers, using two banjos, performed by two musicians, having three people on some and only one person on others.
The banjo pairs seamlessly with the mandolin, fiddle, cello, bass, clawhammer banjo, and even the piano, played in such a way (by Nick himself) that it’s not immediately obvious that it is a piano. The tunes range from up-tempo (“Cumberland Gap,” “Too Young To Marry”), to mournful (“Bell’s March,” “Cold Frosty Morning”), but all resonate with an atmosphere of sparseness that gives the music plenty of room to grow and expand in your ears until it becomes part of the soundtrack of your day.
My personal favorite is the Brad Leftwich tune “Ninety Degrees,” played with bandmate John Reischman (mandolin), for its clever interlocking phrases. The bass and banjo duet “Lost Girl” captures a feeling of longing and mystery, deepened by the dedication “for RL” in the liner notes. Of special note, an occurrence so rare and cool that it deserves recognition: all Nick’s musical partners, with the exception of John, are women.
This is old-time music, to be sure, but thoroughly modern old-time. It is contemplative, the instrumental sounds are beautifully captured, and it will make a superb addition to any traditional music lover’s collection. (Nick Hornbuckle, 7245 118th Ave. SW, Olympia, WA 98512, www.nickhornbuckle.com.)CAH