The Jacob Jolliff Band
Reviewed by Dale and Darcy Cahill
On August 5th Adhyaropa Records released Jacob Jolliff’s newest album entitled the Jacob Jolliff Band. Jolliff hit the bullseye with this album. Possibly most famous for playing a little bit left of center with his progressive and complex mandolin instrumentals, with this album Jolliff returns to his bluegrass roots.
For the past few years, Jolliff has toured with a rotating group of musicians, all known for their virtuosic and innovative playing. For this album, Jolliff recorded with Stash Wyslouch on guitar and vocals, Myles Sloniker on bass and vocals and John Mailander on fiddle.
Wyslouch is at heart a bluegrass player, one who approaches bluegrass from every direction possible and some that seem impossible. Myles Sloniker joined the Jacob Jolliff Band in 2018 and is well versed in playing jazz and bluegrass as well as singing tight harmonies and John Mailander is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist who like the others in the band naturally genre-bends on all his stringed instruments. Jolliff says of this band mates, “Myles brings his super dependable timing, modern jazz sensibilities, and laser-beam harmonies to the situation. Stash contributes incredibly driving rhythm playing, avant-garde soloing, and high harmonies. John brings a level of taste and class and grounding in all bluegrass fiddle styles.” This is one talented and creative quartet.
While Jolliff’s last album Standards, Vol. 1 included all original instruments, Jolliff says that this album is representative of the band’s live shows which include a combination of bluegrass, covers and original mandolin compositions. The album is almost perfectly split between original instrumentals and vocal songs he grew up playing with his dad and ones that just fit with the collection of tunes.
If we had to pick a few favorites, first on the list is his original instrumental “Old Dizzy Legs.” If he listened to “Old Dizzy Legs,” Bill Monroe might say, “that’s no part of nothing” but we, at the risk of inventing a new qualifier would call it high lonesome jazz. The next tune in our top three is his arrangement of the gospel song, “They’re Holding Up the Ladder.” With three-part harmonies and Jolliff’s arrangement, the song seems to channel Tim O’Brien and Hot Rize. Finally, we loved his treatment of the instantly recognizable song by Jonathan Edwards, “Don’t Cry Blue.” Jolliff’s gives everyone in the band the opportunity to stretch their legs and show what they’ve got. The man knows how to sing and his harmonies with Sloniker and Wyslouch create a full, fat sound.
Our pick for best title is, “The Good, The Bad, and The Homeschooled,” Jolliff’s joyful frolic for mandolin. There are no clinkers on this album. Every song is where it should be. Artfully arranged and executed. We will be adding this album to our bluegrass collection. Jolliff manages to be totally himself on this album, demonstrating not only his creative compositions and stunning riffs, but his strong connection to the world of bluegrass, past and present.