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Steppin' In the Boiler House

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Album Review

Listening to banjo player Mark Schatz cut loose on "Big Root," it's easy to imagine he learned the song from some old-time banjo player years ago. It's a surprise, then, to learn that Schatz wrote this — and most of the other songs — on the album. It's also a surprise to learn that Schatz, known for his clawhammer banjo style, was born in 1955, making him fairly young for someone interested in the older styles of music. He's joined on Steppin in the Boiler House by bassist Missy Raines, guitarist Jim Hurst, and fiddler Casey Driessen, plus a number of well-known guests including Tim O'Brien and Jerry Douglas. These guest appearances also point to the fact that while Schatz may enjoy traditional roots music, he nonetheless keeps himself open for new sounds. With "The Falling Waters of Arden," for instance, he captures a lovely, gentle mood, and his banjo work is much closer to new acoustic music than to bluegrass. This is also true of "Eileen's Waltz," though the "waltz" timing gives the instrumental a traditional feel. While there are fine vocals on Steppin in the Boiler House (O'Brien does a nice job with "Last Old Dollar"), it's instrumentals like "Season of Joy" and "Calgary" that really stand out. Schatz has avoided the sophomore slump on Steppin in the Boiler House, and delivered another fine album for acoustic music fans. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s

Mark Schatz, a prominent player on the Nashville scene, has worked with artists such as Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Maura O'Connell, John Hartford, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Tim O'Brien. He has twice been named IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Bass Player of the Year and has served as the musical director of the percussive dance ensemble Footworks. His solo debut, Brand New Old Tyme Way, was produced by Fleck for Rounder Records in 1995. The effort featured Schatz's...
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Steppin' In the Boiler House, Mark Schatz
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