Stumblin’ Out Of The Gate
Even though these two master pickers —Jack Dunlap, one of the fastest guns on mandolin (and guitar) in the greater Washington, D.C. area, and Robert Mabe, a North Carolina-born banjo master—have been collaborating on and off for years, Dunlap started this project as a solo album about two years ago. After years of showcasing on the mandolin, he decided to focus on his guitar playing for a change.
Not long afterward he began touring with Mabe again his solo project morphed into a collaboration. Alex Kimble on bass, Mason Wright on fiddle, and Danny Knicely on mandolin are also integral to this music.
The high-octane title tune, written by Mabe, is anything but a “stumble.” It’s a fiery bluegrass breakdown with a complex arrangement and relentless drive that showcases these musicians’ impeccable chops. It also foreshadows what’s to come.
Besides being accomplished musicians and inspired songwriters, these two are also fine vocalists who can deliver both emotional nuances and power punches with their voices as well as their instruments.
“Flowers Down Below” (composed by Dunlap) is, for instance, a haunting minor-key ballad featuring some thrilling instrumental interplay. At heart, it captures a devastating and despairing sense of loss and finality. “On The Bottom” (Mabe) falls along a similar point on the emotional spectrum as it addresses coming to terms with romantic betrayal.
“Goodbye Marie” (cowritten by Dennis Linde and Mel McDaniel and previously recorded by Kenny Rogers) is a revved-up honky-tonk ballad that’s highlighted by a breath-taking fiddle ride by Mason Wright. The quasi-political “Don’t Know Why” is accentuated by a snazzy-jazzy bass solo by Alex Kimble.
“Sailing Song” (Dunlap) is the wistful and captivating lament of a man who travels around the world and sails the seven seas, all the while seeing the face of his sweetheart in every sunrise and sunset.
The jazzy, sophisticated arrangement of “Time Is Running Out” is structured around some intriguing tempo shifts and counter shifts. Once again, it showcases this ensemble’s impressive balance between virtuosity, sophistication and free-flowing emotional spontaneity.