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Album Review

The key to the success of the Canadian bluegrass group John Reischman & the Jaybirds is that, despite the star billing given to its mandolin player, it is really an ensemble in which Reischman is more than willing to let his bandmates shine. The most obvious standout is bass player, singer, and songwriter Trisha Gagnon, who provides the title for the group's fourth album with her leadoff composition, "The Jaybird Song," in which she comments on the "five stellar jaybirds" she can see out her window, and sings lead on another five songs on the disc, two of which, the wistful "On My Way to You" and the alarming "Fire on the Mountain" (not to be confused with other songs of that name) she also wrote. A second major figure in the Jaybirds is guitarist Jim Nunally, who has four lead vocals and wrote two songs in addition to his playing duties, and who handled the recording duties from co-producing to mastering the disc. Banjo player Nick Hornbuckle and fiddler Greg Spatz get a composition each on the album as well, and with Reischman they hold up the bulk of the alternately lyrical and rapid-fire instrumental work. The bandleader himself gets a couple of songwriting credits on "Deception Falls" and "Mississippi Hoedown," both instrumentals. And room is also made for songs by Ralph Stanley and those bluegrass masters "Public Domain" and "Traditional." On the evidence of Stellar Jays, John Reischman & the Jaybirds are in their prime as contemporary bluegrass musicians capable of maintaining and extending the music's legacy.

Stellar Jays, John Reischman and the Jaybirds
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