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Album Review

When a veteran like mandolinist/producer/label owner David Grisman states that new bands rarely catch and keep his attention and Old School Freight Train has succeeded in winning him over for the long haul, that is critical praise that only a foolish writer would challenge. The quintet's unique style of bluegrass has a variety of contemporary influences, yet sounds like no other group on this remarkable studio recording. Guitarist Jesse Harper is a strong lead vocalist, with backing vocals by fiddler Nate Leath and harmony provided by bassist Darrell Muller. Pete Frostic is not only an accomplished mandolinist, but he contributed several originals, including the snappy "Henry Brown" and "Mr. Parshif's Jig," a challenging instrumental. Banjo player Ben Krakauer is also a multiple threat; in addition to being a virtuoso on his instrument, he wrote the unusual "Tango Chutney," which blends Middle Eastern and Caribbean rhythms. Two special guests, producer Grisman himself (on mandolin) and Grisman sideman Joe Craven (percussion) are added on the exotic bossa nova "Euridice," penned by Leath. The infectious "Drama Queen" has a humorous lyric in an adventurous jig-like setting. They have no problem translating Stevie Wonder's funky pop hit "Superstition" into a bluegrass vehicle without losing the flavor of either genre, while proving equally convincing with their fine interpretation of Randy Newman's bittersweet ballad "Louisiana 1927." Like their producer, the members of Old School Freight Train aren't interested in being pigeonholed, as they are capable of creating their own music map, with the obvious intention of expanding it on their journey together.

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Run, Old School Freight Train
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