Ruby’s Slipper Records
There have been some outstanding two-finger banjo pickers that have made themselves known. Among them are Doc Watson, Will Keys, and Jack Phelps, who was a Blue Grass Boy. Add the name Nick Hornbuckle to this list. He’s a member of John Reischman & The Jaybirds haling from Canada. Here, he plays banjo, as well as percussion and piano. This fine collection of original tunes far surpasses any one genre.
The emphasis here is on banjo. Not that in-your-face banjo sound of traditional bluegrass, although at times he achieves that. Here, the focus is on a wider range of expression. Taking the banjo through a range of timbres and tempos, Hornbuckle brings forth melodies that not only evoke a range of emotions, but they also explore tonal possibilities that are not all that common in bluegrass banjo. There’s melancholy on “The South Road,” and a hard-driving determination to “The Crooked Man.” Andrew Collins’ mandolin and Ivan Rosenberg’s resonator guitar underpin the angst in this tune.
There are nearly a dozen guests on this project, but the overall sound is quite cohesive. John Reischman’s mandolin and Hornbuckle’s banjo dance sprightly on “Hopping Harvey.” Every track is rich in another tonal aspect of the banjo. “Zebadiah’s Stomp” is a moderate bluegrass ride featuring some nice picking not only from the banjo, but it also features great breaks from Reischman on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on guitar, and Rosenberg on resonator guitar.
The moods change with each track and music keeps rolling on like a mountain stream. This is a joyful album when taken in full. A playful sense of humor sets off the introspection. The tonal range of the banjo is on full display and while you might guess that, at times, it’s clawhammer or old-time or three-finger bluegrass, well it is—and a whole lot more played two-finger style. (www.nickhornbuckle.com)RCB
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