SCROGGINS & ROSE
This review is simple. If you are at all a fan of the duo albums by Mike Marshall and Darol Anger or early Dawg music or maybe the glorious guitar duet CDs of Critter Eldridge and Julian Lage, you must hear Grana by mandolin phenom Tristan Scroggins and violinist Alisa Rose. Pairing mandolin with either violin or baritone violin (whatever that is), this CD is gloriously well-recorded to give each instrument a full, rich sound that resonates perfectly with its partner. There’s no straight-up bluegrass here, but the duo’s music does draw heavily on the traditions of Monroe and traditional American fiddle tunes, as well as classical, folk, and jazz.
Improvisations on “Wheel Hoss,” as the title states, uses the classic bluegrass mandolin piece as a platform to explore both harmonic and rhythmic extensions on a popular theme. Same for “Jerusalem Ridge,” where the melody is implied more often than invoked, as the musicians craft their own deep interpretations of a legendary melody. The composer probably wouldn’t recognize either tune as his own, but for those with wide ears, there’s great music here.
Similarly, Rose rips through “Elzik’s Farewell” with power and authority, driven on by Scroggins’ pounding mandolin rhythm and graceful solos. It’s a great example of how common fiddle tune melodies lend themselves to exotic exploration by talented soloists. Recognizing that classical music can be a rich field for melodic invention and interplay even in the bluegrass world, they tackle a Paganini caprice with verve and skill. The result is a charming work, filled with hidden twists and turns that delight the listener.
The title tune, one of several originals here, employs Tristan’s delicate cross-picking on mandolin, buoyed by the gorgeous, emotive violin of Alisa. It’s a chord progression more often heard in pop music than bluegrass, but as a platform for their lush harmonies and delicate interplay, it’s a perfect vehicle for these two highly-skilled and creative musicians.
Grana stands out as a highlight amongst the many New Acoustic and progressive bluegrass projects appearing these days. Skillfully blending classical, folk, bluegrass, jazz, and other influences, this is music that begs to be heard on a great stereo in a nice listening room, a glass of fine Shiraz in hand, as you drift away into the lush layers of tone. Enjoy. (www.scrogginsandrose.com)DJM