Authenticity is a word you don't often hear in pop music, but in roots genres such as old-time and bluegrass, authenticity is one of the essential ingredients. Jody Stecher has been a vocal advocate for Authenticity since he began his musical career in the late 60's.
Brooklyn-born Stecher has long been a student of roots music. He spent his formative years playing bluegrass, Cajun, blues, and Celtic music before branching out into Hindustani classical music. He studied with Ali Akbar Kahn and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and released an unusual album of Indian/American fusion music with Krishna Bhatt, "Rasa," in 1982. Stecher met Kate Brislin in 1974 but didn't begin performing regularly as a duo until 1985.
The vocals are the stars here. Jody and Kate's dual lead vocals are acrobatic, spirited, and always genuine. While the vocals are precise and nuanced, the instrumental musicianship has an almost John Cage-like feeling of randomness and variation. Stecher's mandolin style reminds me of Mike Compton, full of slurs and implied notes. For both these players, this purposeful sloppiness is part and parcel of their authentic style, and the antithesis of Chris Thile's modern style that's influenced by classical technique.
David Bromberg, who's known Stecher since the early 70's said, "It's my suspicion that if you drained all the music out of Jody, you could carry what was left around in an eye dropper." Examples of Stecher's innate musicality are obvious on tunes such as "Fine Horseman." With a hauntingly eerie guitar, modal dual vocals, and a spare guitar solo, this song sounds as fully orchestrated as any multi-tracked extravaganza. Stecher also plays all the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle parts as well as guitar. In every song his instrumental contributions are minimalist without being simplistic.