Scott Hopkins seems to be ready to add his name to the growing list of hot young banjo players. Based in Albany, N.Y., and currently performing with resonator guitar wizard Junior Barber’s band, Hopkins took to the road and recorded this CD of 11 predominantly original songs and tunes with an all-star cast of players.
The album’s seven original instrumentals are the most striking part of his debut release. All of them, from the powerful “Jumper Cables,” the twisting and turning “Corky’s Clogs,” and the epic multi-part “Sanchez Trace,” hold up well as compositions, as well as vehicles for some creative solos. Hopkins more than holds his own amidst an impressive cast of guests that includes Barber, Jesse Cobb, Becky Buller, Randy Kohrs, Luke Bulla, Casey Driessen, Kevin Maul, Mike Compton, and Stephen Mougin. But he’s also not afraid to add a gently atmospheric lullaby such as “Night Night, Allison” or a relatively straightforward number such as “Around The Hornpipe,” both of which are nicely colored by the piano of Steve Collier.
While most of Hopkins’ writing and playing lean toward the newgrass end of the spectrum, he pays fitting homage to tradition with a respectful cover of “Home Sweet Home.” He’s also written three songs that are included here, but takes the lead only on the sentimental tribute to his newborn child, “Before I Knew.” The best of these vocal numbers may be “Nothing Left To Lose,” a hard-core been-done-wrong cooker, effectively sung by Mougin.
Scott Hopkins has certainly proven he deserves to stand with the best instrumentalists in progressive bluegrass, and his debut CD gives fans of hot picking a chance to hear some of the best young players around stretch out and interact on some challenging and interesting new tunes. (www.scotthopkinsmusic.com.)HK
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