CD-269 Joshua Palmer "Metacognition"
The most difficult quality to achieve in music these days is originality. Human endeavor has simply produced so many sounds, styles and approaches to music that is all but impossible to not sound influenced by something that has come before.
However, Joshua Palmer manages to be unique. Joshua plays mandolin as if he picked it up and not only learned to play, but became proficient, without ever having heard one played before. As presented on his first album, Metacognition, Palmer has managed to develop a style that doesn't sound like the next branch of one of the great "mandolin trees," (Monroe, Bush, Thile, et al.) and yet remains thoroughly musical and satisfying throughout. With strong, clear notation and an keen sense of time, Palmer takes the same tools available to the rest of us mandolin players and builds with them something new.
Its not surprising that Joshua has developed such a singular style given his eclectic musical background. From Owls Hollow, Alabama, Palmer began playing piano at age three, and had written his first song by the time he was five. At age eleven, inspired by Gene Autry and Roy Rogers cowboy songs, he picked up the guitar. However, after his brother had bought and lost interest in a mandolin, Joshua got his hands on it. "I picked it up and started applying what I knew about guitar and piano notes to mandolin. I started taking lessons two weeks later." After taking lessons from family friend Gary Pettus and Stan Wilemon of David Davis and Warrior River Boys fame, it was a couple of lessons with Wayne Benson, "just to get a broader spectrum on technique and notation," that really lit the spark of creativity. Palmer sums up his influences this way, "My sister, who is eight years older, used to listen to Nickel Creek and that was the extent of my bluegrass influence on music until I was fourteen... Other than that it was just Classical Music, Gene Autry, Roy Rodgers, blues, Christian rock, Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin."
Those divergent influences manifest themselves in the opening number, "Train of Tears" an ode to imminent heartbreak that takes some unexpected turns, with dobroist Andy Hall adding some excellent flourishes and fills. But the true opening statement of this collection is the second and title track, "Metacognition," which best encapsulates the style and approach of a new talent, accompanied by a cast of master musicians possessing the sensitivity and expressiveness to take on such material (Kenny Smith, Scott Vestal, Mark Schatz, Nate Leath and Andy Hall). Mark Schatz’s clawhammer banjo brings to life Palmer's ode to his hometown, "Owl's Hollow," While his bowed bass sets the tone for "The Dusk" and Leath's fiddle swells pull the lonesome out of "Hour Glass Waltz." However, Palmer keeps the focus centered on his unique talent and style, exhibiting his love for twin mandolins, classical music and Edgar Allen Poe (one would assume) with a duet of twin mandolin masterpieces, "Poe" and "The Raven and the Crow" which punctate a collection of tunes by a new and unique talent among mandolin players, Joshua Palmer.
– Joseph L. Scott