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Pure Records PRCD48 

From all the dire jokes that are made about them, you would think that banjos are truly unloved. Well, they certainly aren’t by Damien and Ron, who respectively play tenor and five-string instruments. Here they demonstrate that not only are they masters of their respective banjos, but they are capable of combining the two quite different sounds into a dynamic, thrilling fusion which not only pays respect to the differing traditions of the two instruments, but takes them into a genre which is greater than the sum of the parts.

The duo is joined by a wonderful line-up of accompanists – Barry Bales, bass; Sam Bush, mandolin; Steven Byrnes, guitar; Anthony Davis, keyboards; Stuart Duncan, fiddle; Ethan Jodziewicz, bass; David Kosky, guitar; Duncan Lyall, bass; Michael McGoldrick, flute and whistles; and Sierra Hull, mandolin. The resultant cross-combinations of arrangements fairly sparkle like a glass of Moet as the banjos ring out some of the crispest-sounding music I’ve heard in a long time.

Most of the tracks are written by Damien, with some from Ron and other contemporary writers who keep the traditional feel throughout. The banjo playing shows a full range of subtlety, from rippling and fast-driving to slow and sensitive. High production quality means that every note is clearly heard, even in the fastest of riffs, the two lead instruments feeding off each other to produce pyrotechnic pizazz. Try the Leiper’s Fork track to hear just what I mean.

What’s more, there’s over 70 minutes of music here, so lots to enjoy.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.