This is an incredible banjo album. It’s so beautiful!!! (and that’s an odd word to be paired with such a rude-sounding instrument)… It also continues to confirm my notion that every single record issued by Flying Fish was great (or every one I’ve heard so far at least). Moreover, he paved the way for Béla Fleck and Alison Brown, both of whom went on to become much more famous than he. Indeed, he’s pretty much impossible to find information on, and I’m pretty sure this is his only record. God, it’s good though… really. The best ragtime banjo number I’ve ever heard (his arrangement of Joseph Lamb’s ‘Ragtime Nightingale’ is simply stunning), and classical banjo to match the great John Bullard. And really interesting original pieces, kinda dawgy but with less jazz and more classical and Celtic influence. There’s even a traditional Irish number, done fingerstyle on a 5-string. Really, this guy could have been what Béla Fleck has become, but he never wowed everybody with his bluegrass chops, so he never really became famous. Ah, well. Another forgotten masterpiece, prime for blogging!
Label: Flying Fish
Review by Brian Olewnick
Banjoist Paul Smith presented here a selection of works divided between traditional folk and bluegrassy pieces and works from the classical repertoire rearranged for banjo. The former are the most attractive, including songs like his own “Missouri,” sounding a bit like David Grisman’s work from around the same period, and the Irish tune “Julia Delaney,” a delightful romp giving Smith’s nimble fingers a good workout. The title cut was originally a harpsichord work by François Couperin, played solo here and quite appealingly, the hollow banjo chords giving the short piece some breathing room. The little-known Joseph Lamb’s “Ragtime Nightingale” is an unexpected delight with a subtlety of line and mysterious quality that compares reasonably well with Scott Joplin. The Beethoven and Vivaldi compositions work less well, coming off as slightly precious and overly benign. There’s a bit too much self-consciousness in Smith’s avowed attempts to “redefine” the banjo. One would have wished he simply relaxed and played pieces like “The Last Minute” and “Julia Delaney” and stopped worrying so much. As is, Mysterious Barricades is generally enjoyable and a fine banjo showcase, but it could have been much more.
Paul Smith, banjo and fiddle
Adam Rose, guitar
John Held, piano
Tudy McLain, flute
Paul Kotapish, bouzouki
Kundry Berger, piano and harpsichord
Joe Bichsell, cello
02 Beethoven: Sonatina in C for mandolin and piano w/o 44.
04 Julia Delaney
05 Les Barricades Mystérieuses
06 Ragtime Nightingale
07 The Last Minute
08 Tim’s Flatted Fifth
09 Vivaldi: Concerto in D for lute, two violins, and continuo; I. Allegro
10 Vivaldi: Concerto in D for lute, two violins, and continuo; II. Largo
11 Vivaldi: Concerto in D for lute, two violins, and continuo; III. Allegro
fresh vinyl rip, cleaned | mp3 >256kbps
I’m really curious about ragtime, classical, and Irish music played on the 5-string banjo. If any of you have Fred Sokolow – Ragtime Banjo, Bluegrass Style, or John Bullard – Bach on Banjo, I’d love to hear them. Or others I may not know about!