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Rooksmere Records RRCD118 

More evidence that the much-reviled banjo can be just as versatile a lead instrument as any other you care to mention. Of the younger generation, nobody has done more to demolish preconceptions about the instrument than Dan Walsh, the Fresh Prince of Plunk. He is taking the banjo to places it didn't even know it wanted to go.

After a couple of albums offering a fairly stripped-down sound, he has really spread his wings this time. Although he still draws heavily on Scots, Irish and Bluegrass roots, he also ventures further afield, with the African-influenced 80 Years Of Pleasant Half Hours and, most startlingly, the Indian fusion of The Lydian Set. There is also the Bluegrass classic, Sleep With One Eye Open, which harks back to the legendary yard-stick of Flatt and Scruggs.

To help him out in pursuing those standards, Walsh has assembled a trio to achieve the fuller sound he seeks. Ciaran Algar's fiddle will be well-known to many from his work with Greg Russell, whilst the mandolin of Nick Zuppardi is new to me, despite his playing with Sam Kelly And The Lost Boys. Walsh, whose songwriting and singing is distinctly underestimated, remains front and centre of it all, having worked with everyone from Duane Eddy and Joss Stone to the City Of London Sinfonieta, not to mention his acclaimed duo with gob-iron maestro, Will Pound.

He will even teach you to play banjo on Skype, which is not anything that Earl Scruggs saw coming!

Dave Hadfield


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine