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New Deal

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Album Review

Tony Trischka has been a banjo innovator since his earliest recordings in the 1970s. He is widely credited — usually in tandem with fellow pioneering stylist Bill Keith — with inventing the "melodic" style of bluegrass banjo playing, an approach which focuses on chromatic lines rather than the rhythmic arpeggios of Scruggs-style picking. On New Deal, Trischka continues to push the envelope, gathering around himself a band that includes saxophone, electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, and playing tunes that range from jazzy adaptations of bluegrass standards (such as the group's arrangement of "Earl's Breakdown") to original blues compositions that prominently feature slide banjo ("Hand Me My Banjo Down") and even a sort of faux-Pacific Rim fusion ("Quasi Qoto"). The most technically impressive number is saxophonist Michael Amendola's "Miracle Man," a fiery workout written specifically for Trischka, but the most musically revelatory moments come during "Hand Me My Banjo Down," on which Trischka plays a resophonic banjo and demonstrates once and for all that the five-string banjo is a natural blues instrument. (Note also Loudon Wainwright's fine vocal cameo on that track.) Bluegrass purists will find much to sniff at on this album, but this is a treasure trove for roots music aficionados with adventurous tastes.


Born: 16 January 1949 in Syracuse, NY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The avant-garde banjo stylings of Tony Trischka inspired a whole generation of progressive bluegrass musicians; he was not only considered among the very best pickers, he was also one of the instrument's top teachers, and created numerous instructional books, teaching video tapes, and cassettes. A native of Syracuse, New York, Trischka's interest in banjo was sparked by the Kingston Trio's "Charlie and the MTA" in 1963. Two years later, he joined the Down City Ramblers, where he remained through...
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New Deal, Tony Trischka
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