CD-247 Frank Wakefield & Taylor Baker "Frank Wakefield, Taylor Baker & Friends"
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Frank Wakefield is our greatest living mandolin player. I know there are other mandolinists for whom a compelling case can be made; musicians I respect and admire, and whose playing I cherish. But, as I happen to be the person who was granted the privilege of writing this, and as it happens to be my honest belief, this is what I am compelled to say. From his classic bluegrass recordings with Red Allen to his solo performances of classical pieces, original and otherwise; from his use of alternate tunings and time signatures to the development of his chime technique; there is simply no era of Frank's playing that sounds like any other era of Frank's playing. Even into his seventies, he continues to grow as an artist, as the frenetic noting of the 60s give way to the chord-voicings of today. Frank Wakefield can play bluegrass, or classical, or blues as well as any other mandolinist alive, but his playing has grown far beyond the constraints of those labels. The sum-total of sound the mandolin is capable of producing is now Frank's style. Frank Wakefield plays the entire mandolin.
I've known Taylor Baker since he was 12. Already a capable bluegrass mandolinist then, he has since matured into a fine all round musician, mastering the works of artists as diverse as Dave Apollon, Enrico Marucelli and Jacob Do Bandolim, as well as winning first place in the mandolin competition at the Galax Old Time Fiddler's Convention in 2010. Taylor Baker doesn't play like Frank Wakefield, though he can when the mood strikes him. As Frank says, "Tom (Mindte) turned me on to Taylor when he called and let me listen to Taylor playing my F# tune and I thought it was a record of me." But, Taylor Baker has the same adventurism of spirit; they both seek out any music that sounds good on the mandolin, with little concern for labels or genre. This is where their kinship lies.
And that kinship was the genesis of this album. The first two words that came to mind when I heard this cd were "fun" and "love." What you hold in your hands is the sound of two master mandolinists who love the mandolin and playing music with each other, having a blast playing together; showing what the mandolin can do without showing off. As Frank says, "We played each song twice and we were done. That's all we needed." Accompanied by Stefan Custodi on bass and Brennen Ernst on guitar providing the perfect counter-balance throughout, and a few other surprises (keep an ear out for Tom Mindte’s accordion), the duo takes the listener through a songbook of old sounds, "Home Sweet Home," Red River Valley," "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "The Girl I Left Behind Me, "Bonaparte's Retreat," "When You and I Were Young Maggie" just to name a few. All displaying there are few things prettier than two mandolins in the hands of masters; in harmony, playing a simple, satisfying melody. It is fitting that the first two sounds of the first track ("Echo Blues') the listener hears is a Wakefield call and a Baker response. Though they may be separated by sixty years and eleven presidents, Frank Wakefield and Taylor Baker sound as if they were born to play together. - Joseph L. Scott