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Mike Compton & David Long

Review By Steven Stone
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CD Number: Acoustic Disc ACD-63 


  The expression "a mandolin player's mandolin player" comes to mind whenever I think of Mike Compton. He's not as high profile as Chris Thile or Ricky Skaggs, but to mandolin cognoscenti, especially those into "Monroe style" playing, Compton is the man. On Stomp Compton collaborates with David Long, a young player who has developed an equally traditional and mature style.

The central idea behind Stomp was to explore the "pre-bluegrass" mandolin styles of early rural Southern players, but instead of playing only traditional early tunes Stomp contains original songs, traditional tunes, and obscure Monroe numbers. The original tunes include Compton's "Blacks' Run," "Big Indian Blues,' and "Stomp" plus Long's "January Nightmare," and the Compton-Long composition "Centipede Hop." Monroe songs include "Evening Blues Prayer," Ashland Breakdown," "Old Mountaineer," and "Tanyards." Traditional tunes include "Mississippi Bound," The Old Ark's a Movin'," "How DO You Want It Done," "Vicksburg Stomp," "Standing on Jesus," "Sweet Lizzie," and "Prison Blues."

In addition to mandolin Compton plays octave mandola, guitar, and octave banjo. This last instrument, which Compton (and most other players) had never seen before, was in producer David Grisman's personal collection. On his song "Black's Run" Compton combined this special banjo with several more conventional instruments to create a funky texture that is the epitome of  "old timey" sound.  David Long's mandolin playing on his own composition "January Nightmare" also captures a pre-bluegrass vibe primarily due to his careful use of slides and hammer-on ornamentations to give his attack a slightly ragged edge.

Recorded and produced by David Grisman in his Dawg Studios, Stomp captures the subtle details of Compton and Long's playing along with the complex tones of their instruments. On the first cut, "Evening Prayer Blues" you can hear how different Compton's Gilchrist oval hole F-4 sounds from Long's Gilchrist F-hole F-5. Grisman places his microphones close enough to capture each instrument's unique voice, but still preserve some of the room's natural acoustics. The sonic results are stunningly real and compelling.

Stomp makes a strong point for the art of simple music making. All you really need is a couple of great players and a sympathetic recording engineer, and the rest takes care of itself.




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