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Banging & Sawing

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Album Review

As melodic clawhammer banjo players go, Bob Carlin is certainly one of the most compulsive; it's hard to think of another banjoist who goes to such pains to make sure he plays every note in the melody. Sometimes groove gets sacrificed in the pursuit of that vision, and when you're playing with a fiddler you need to be able to groove — as neat as melodic-style banjo is, something sounds wrong if the banjo completely abdicates its percussive function. But Carlin does usually have fun, and he sounds like he's having a blast on this generously augmented reissue of his 1985 solo album. Most of the tracks are just banjo and fiddle, though a few feature guitarists as well (including the redoubtable Norman Blake). That leads to a certain sameness of texture, a sameness that Carlin and John Hartford overcame on their duo album, The Fun of Open Discussion, with sheer humor and good-naturedness; here that same personality comes through on tracks like "Big Footed Man in the Sandy Lot" and "Far in the Mountain," but on others, he settles for mere virtuosity. Recommended with reservations.


Born: March 17, 1953 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s

Bob Carlin was one of the best old-time banjo pickers in country music, unique in that he played in the old clawhammer style with a few personalized twists. But Carlin was also a noted folk-music expert who coordinated numerous field recordings. He also wrote and produced respected documentary albums and radio programs on numerous subjects related to American roots music, and started his own label, CarTunes Records. Carlin was born in New York City; growing up during the folk revival, he was inspired...
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Banging & Sawing, Bob Carlin
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