Every musical form needs young hotshot players to remain fresh and vibrant. Andy Leftwich's first CD Ride marks him as one of bluegrass' most promising new instrumental voices. His regular gig is with Ricky Skaggs Kentucky Thunder Band, where he adds his mandolin and fiddle skills to this first-class traditional bluegrass unit. On Ride Leftwich explores more contemporary-flavored instrumental bluegrass. His nine original compositions join Django Reinhart/ Stephane Grappelli's "Minor Swing" and the old traditional tune "Jesus Love Me" to complete this all-instrumental CD.
Unlike some young instrumental whiz kids, Leftwich's playing leans toward a more traditional and melodic approach. Even his original compositions have a very established and rootsy feeling that is steeped in old-time style. Although Leftwich spends most of his time on mandolin and fiddle, his playing reminds me of guitarist Bryan Sutton, whose recent album Bluegrass Guitar displays a similar reverence for traditional instrumental styles.
Rob Ickes on dobro, Jeff Taylor on accordion, Travis Alltop on guitar, Richard Bailey on banjo, and Mark Fain and Missy Raines join Leftwich on Ride. Even though recorded in three different studios by several different engineers, Ride maintains consistently high sonic quality. I'm sure that some of the credit for its gorgeous sound should go to mastering engineer Andrew Mendelson and the facilities in the Denny Purcell room at Georgetown Masters.
One listen to Ride should convince you that Andy Leftwich epitomizes the kind of fresh blood that's keeping bluegrass music healthy and growing. My copy has found its way to my car player where it makes me smile every time it comes around.