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WE BANJO 3 - String Theory

WE BANJO 3 - String Theory
Private Label WB3CD004

Rather confusing mob, the Banjo Gents. For one thing, there are four of them, two sets of brothers no less, and their interests extend beyond the banjo. But ‘We Assorted Stringed Instrument Four’ – it just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Quibbles over numbers aside, their mission statement is to rebuild some of the broken links between Irish and bluegrass music. That still leaves room for what sounds to me like some pretty straight-ahead country as well. And yes, the much maligned banjo is right in the forefront. Two of the four regulars and one of their occasional contributors list it as their weapon of choice.

Whether they are tackling something deeply familiar, like Little Liza Jane, or a new piece by one or other band member or their pals, they play up a storm. Listen to the sets of tunes under the names of Aunt Jemima's Plaster or Chairsnappers Delight, for instance, and you can believe that the banjo is taking over the world.

A word about their choice of songs though – and they all fancy themselves as singers. In the track Happiness, they are so relentlessly jolly that it becomes quite depressing. And is it time for a moratorium on new versions of The Two Sisters? We know that it and its close relations tell an epic story, but variants of it are everywhere and we know how it ends now.

Those quibbles aside, this is a hugely enjoyable album, with a focus that makes it a bit different from anything else out there.

Dave Hadfield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.