CD-291 Northern Connection "Northern Connection"
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For a musical world that’s remained, for the most part, resolutely small over the years, bluegrass has managed to foster a surprising number of diverse, distinctive scenes. Partisans of Washington, DC have done much for years to highlight the contributions of acts like the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, but areas like southwest Ohio and Baltimore, MD lagged behind in national awareness. Happily, things have taken a better turn for the latter with the prominence of Baltimore-bred musicians—the list starts with Hall of Famer Del McCoury—who made and are making a mark on today’s international bluegrass scene, and lately with the publication of Tim Newby’s useful Bluegrass In Baltimore.
Read through its portrait of Charm City’s lively bluegrass community, and you’ll find frequent reference to Frankie Short, Sr., a musician’s musician who sadly left behind little in the way of a commercial recording legacy. Fortunately, he left another legacy in the person of Frankie Short, Jr., who now is making his own contribution to the still-thriving Baltimore bluegrass scene and, therefore, to the world of bluegrass as a whole. Leading a stellar band that invokes additional history—banjo man Bobby Lundy and bass player Brian Eldreth both bear family names familiar to fans—Frankie delivers a quintessential set that should help to burnish the area’s reputation still further and, even more importantly, introduce a fine set of talents to the larger bluegrass stage.
The music here is, to use the well-worn phrase, bluegrass as it is meant to be played. If you’re looking for complex arrangements, edgy improvisations or fancy ‘grass-flavored re-workings of pop or rock hits (or obscurities)—not that there’s anything wrong with that—look elsewhere. This is the straight-ahead stuff, played and sung by men who have it deep in their bones, and feel no need to look any further. Skilled without being ornate, heartfelt without being maudlin, they are simply doing what seems to come naturally, but is, in fact, the product of lifetimes of dedication. When you hear Baltimore bluegrass—when you hear Northern Connection—that’s what you hear. Enjoy!
-Jon Weisberger, Cottontown, TN, May, 2016