Patuxent CD-200 Chris Warner - Goin' to the Dance
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On GOIN’ TO THE DANCE Chris Warner makes us keenly aware of the differences between banjo playing and BANJO PLAYING, between bluegrass and BLUEGRASS. His subtlety and dynamics always outweigh hot licks and flash, and each track showcases a group of musicians who share common goals of cohesive, well-rehearsed music performed with great sensitivity, wonderful tone and impeccable timing. Chris emphasizes all these factors and more.
Tom Adams plays guitar and sings most of the lead on this project. Tom and Chris go back to the 1970s and 1980s in their musical association, when they were together in the Adams Brothers-- Chris on mandolin and Tom on banjo. Joining them here on various cuts are fiddlers Patrick McAvinue and Michael Cleveland, Dick Laird and Mark Seitz on mandolin, and Steve Streett and Heath Laird on bass, with Carroll Swam on “Taxes, Troubles and Heartaches” and Darren Beachley on “Heartbreak” and “Don’t Let Her Get Away.”
In bluegrass music there are many common influences and much shared experience; it is no surprise that the results show up here, especially in the form of the “Jimmy Martin School of Bluegrass.” The Martin connections for all these musicians are complex, especially for Chris and Tom, and there will always be a little bit of Jimmy in the disciplined way in which Chris and his companions approach music.
When it comes to the artistry of the banjo, Chris gives us a blend of tradition and innovation, with some clever effects that will give his banjo-picking fans reasons to chuckle and say, “Why didn’t I think of that!”
On “Bonaparte’s Retreat” in “D” Chris capos at the second fret in an open “C” tuning (the 4th string is dropped to “C” and the 1st and 2nd strings are raised accordingly)
that, while common among old-time players, with the notable exception of “Bear Tracks” from the Jimmy Martin repertoire, is rarely used in bluegrass.
Chris’ songwriting skills are apparent with originals such as “Remembrance of Mother” that echoes the Stanley Brothers’ style, the pure hard-driving “Don’t Let Her Get Away,” and a little bit of swing on the CD’s title tune, “Goin’ to the Dance.” He uses open “D” tuning capoed at the third fret to play his “Banjo Blues” in “F”, and his “Brennie’s Dream” in “A-minor” evokes a bit of the flavor of Bill Monroe.
From the hard-driving grassiness of “Lickity Split” that opens GOIN’ TO THE DANCE to the rousing staccato conclusion of “Leavin’ Town,” a demanding piece he often performed as a Sunny Mountain Boy, Chris Warner effectively shows usthat, yes indeed, there are differences between banjo playing and BANJO PLAYING, between bluegrass and BLUEGRASS.