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Fair Weather

Alison Brown

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Album Review

Banjo virtuoso Alison Brown, whose primary group is a jazz quartet, returns to her bluegrass roots on this beautiful and exhilarating album. Well, sort of. The instrumental format is certainly bluegrass, given guest artists like Stuart Duncan and Darol Anger on fiddles, guitarists Mike Marshall and Tony Rice, and mandolinist Sam Bush, and with Brown's fiery five-string picking front and center. But much of this is bluegrass music of a type that Bill Monroe might not recognize; while "Late on Arrival" is a good old-fashioned Scruggs-style banjo showcase and "Fair Weather" a modern bluegrass song with all the standard accouterments, the twin mandolins and easy-swinging rhythm of "Poe's Pickin' Party" sound kind of like an old-time string band playing turn-of-the-century salon music. And then there are the cover tunes, which include a gently winning rendition of the old Elvis Costello hit "Everyday I Write the Book." The album's most thrilling moments come on the complex and exhilarating "Leaving Cottondale," which is both one of the prettiest and one of the most technically impressive of Brown's compositions. Here she's joined by fellow banjo maverick Bela Fleck for one of the most jaw-dropping passages of twin-banjo counterpoint ever put on tape. Call it bluegrass, call it newgrass, call it jazzgrass, whatever. This is one of the best albums of 2000 in any genre.

Biography

Born: 07 August 1962 in Hartford, CT

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Progressive bluegrass banjoist Alison Brown made her name not only as a virtuosic instrumentalist, but as an accomplished, jazz-influenced composer, a combination that earned plenty of comparisons to Béla Fleck and David Grisman. Brown began playing the banjo before reaching her teens and developed quickly, winning numerous contests and even getting a chance to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. She was also an excellent student, and temporarily left music to attend Harvard University; following graduation,...
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Fair Weather, Alison Brown
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