Patuxent CD-330 Tom Mindte, Mason Via & Ben Somerville - 409
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The players: Three talent-laden musicians, three well-tuned voices, three traditional acoustic instruments.
The material: A bakers-dozen songs, a knowledgeable array of genres, and a multitude of styles fashioned by the well-tempered skills of Tom Mindte (mandolin), the fresh exuberance of Ben Somerville (bass) and the drive and clarity of Mason Via (guitar).
This production balances material from vintage up to right this minute. For the newly minted, you’ll hear Mason Via leading two songs he’s created: opener Brown Paper, a lonesome lament for love betrayed, and Rose of Carolina, a bright and breezy celebration of true love. Tom Mindte’s composition, Dark Romance, is a snaking, mischievous melody that allows for some intricate string stretching. Mindte’s robust vocal lead is ideal for the raucous ride, Hot Rod Man by rockabilly luminary Tex Rubinowitz. Mindte shows his vocal range throughout, notably soloing on Take Your Tomorrow, an atmospheric treatment that will plunge you back to the song’s swing and minstrel origins. Ben Somerville, contributing harmonies throughout, shows his lead singing skills in three late-twentieth offerings: the Louvins’ You’re Running Wild, featuring a high, tight duo with Via on the chorus; linking with Mindte and Via on There She Goes Again from the 60s rock era; and heading up the tongue-tripping folk rock offering, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.
This group has made scissor-sharp three-part vocals their specialty. Seems like everybody can sing anything, whether reveling in the driving old-time style of Run Mountain or providing the chorus on the gospel number, From Jerusalem to Jericho, while Mindte reverences the verses like a church house sermonizer. The group’s Sign on the Highway is a wailing warning against liquid sin that will put you right in the picture. Special mention for Jump Little Children, led by Via - a spontaneous jivin’, laughin’, lovin’ blues that might make you think you’ve been transported back to the good old days of vinyl. The collection winds up with fast and furious fugue-ing on This Little Light of Mine, paying sincere homage to the Louvin Brothers.
Every number demonstrates instrumental mastery suitable to the age, tradition and composition, from Somerville’s growling bass runs to Mindte’s swing, blues and jazz showmanship and Via’s guitar licks that jump, run wild, weep and cry.
The musical blaze these guys generate here will quickly spread to a live audience, too. My advice: get the visuals – go see ‘em!
Barbara Bamberger Scott