Patuxent CD-166 Casey Driscoll - Texas Style Fiddling
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Patuxent Records exec Tom Mindte heard Casey Driscoll before he met him, on a Sunday morning at the IBMA convention in Nashville: “I began to form in my mind a picture of the fiddler. I envisioned a Grappelli or Menuhin, an elder statesman of the fiddle/violin with fifty-odd years of fine-tuning his technique. I rounded a corner and encountered Casey Driscoll, then seventeen, playing Tom and Jerry. At first, I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like walking out on a summer day in South Georgia and seeing a foot of snow on the ground.” Mindte immediately struck a recording deal with this remarkable young artist.
Driscoll started playing fiddle at age six, performing and studying with Jay Dean Ludiker in Washington State. He honed his skills as a Texas “contest style” fiddler who early on showed an unusual ability to produce clear, mature tone up and down the neck. On This CD, Driscoll is joined by guitarist Jonathan Grisham, eponymous leader of the Jon Grisham Band, winner of the 2007 John Lennon Educational Bus ‘Battle of the Bands.’
The album begins with swing standard After You’ve Gone. Driscoll makes it his own, demonstrating total comfort with the instrument and the genre. He proves he’s equally at home in the old time mode with a rollicking run through the well worn Old Joe Clark, attacking it with a lightning-fast shuffling style that many a traditional fiddler will envy.
A highlight of the album is Driscoll’s treatment of Bonaparte’s Retreat, a tune that has crossed many geographical boundaries and in this case, crosses yet another with a doleful drone that transports the listener to the Hebrides and beyond. Driscoll varies the pace without departing from the strong familiar melody. The martial pulse of Grisham’s guitar adds a solemn touch.
Grisham goes on to distinguish himself further with a beautifully paced solo in It Don’t Mean a Thing, a perennial swing fave that lets both players strut their stuff. Driscoll’s rendering of Tennessee Waltz comes off sweet and breezy, serving up a Saturday night dancehall flavor. Then it’s back to the hoedown with a raucous version of Sally Goodin. For something completely different, Driscoll shows us what he can do with classic ragtime, suavely navigating The Entertainer by Texas composer Scott Joplin. Driscoll’s bow seems welded to the strings throughout this sophisticated melody, as he varies the pace without a pause in the action.
With Tony Ludiker’s Lake Ponchartrain Waltz Driscoll slows down again, deftly drawing emotive memories out of the tune for a feeling that lingers well past the last note. Next, Fishing Jig, Driscoll’s composition in the Celtic musical language, with the delightful skips and slides so solidly in the groove you’d swear you were hearing it in an Irish pub. Sally Johnson is another good old tune from the square dance realm that Casey executes with speed, push and articulation. T&T Rag gives us Driscoll in brisk swing mode. At Break of Dawn Waltz, by Georgia fiddler Frank Maloy (The Maloy Brothers, Patuxent Records), underscores Driscoll’s skill at twin fiddling, with Nate Leath (I’ve Always Been a Rambler, Patuxent Records), who contributes a stellar solo. Then it’s back to up-tempo in big way with the hot licks of the afore-mentioned Tom and Jerry. The album ends with the strongly tuneful strains of Pete’s Waltz, demonstrating for good and for all that Driscoll knows how to make his fiddle hug a good melody and get the most out of it.