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Album Review

The American Fiddle Ensemble is the latest project put together by eminent neo-trad fiddler Darol Anger, whose long resumé includes illustrious stints with the David Grisman Quintet and the Turtle Island String Quartet and has encompassed bluegrass, old-timey music, swinging acoustic jazz, and classical music. In addition to Anger, this group includes the jaw-droppingly virtuosic guitarist Scott Nygaard, fiddler Brittany Haas, and cellists Natalie Haas and Rushad Eggleston. The repertoire on Republic of Strings is just as varied as the ensemble's instrumentation: there are Appalachian fiddle tunes, of course, including the classic Bill Monroe composition "Old Dangerfield" and the traditional "Grigsby's Hornpipe," but most of the album draws on more exotic material, such as a gorgeous Finnish tune called "Sand" and an equally attractive Lebanese piece entitled "Ouditarus Rez." Nickel Creek vocalist Sara Watkins makes an appearance on an unusual arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground"; the group's setting of that Motown classic is very insightfully arranged — not funky at all, but gently propulsive nevertheless. A gamble that pays off less well is their rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Help Me," which falls rather flat despite being nicely sung by Laurie Lewis. They have the intelligence and taste to take "Grigsby's Hornpipe" rather slowly, but give the Brazilian choro "Andre de Sabato Nuovo" a spirited, swinging attack. Very nice overall.

Republic of Strings, Darol Anger and the American Fiddle Ensemble
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