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Darol Anger And
The America Fiddle Ensemble
Republic Of Strings

Review By Steven Stone
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Darol Anger And The America Fiddle Ensemble Republic Of Strings

CD Number: Compass Records 7 4372 2 


  Many virtuosos find it difficult to make music that entertains both their listeners and themselves. Darol Anger admirably accomplishes this daunting task on his latest Compass Records release Republic of Strings. Instead of creating left-brained musical esoterica that leaves listeners groping for direction, Anger weaves a tapestry that takes traditional tunes to places that are new yet still accessible.

Given Anger's background with groups such as the David Grisman Quintet, Turtle Island Quartet, and The New Grange, his affinity for genre bending should come as no surprise. Still, putting Stevie Wonder's "Highest Ground" on the same disk as Bill Monroe's "Old Dangerfield" seems like a big cultural gap to bridge. In less accomplished hands they would clash like oil and water, but here they work together because Anger sees their similarities rather than their differences. The Stevie Wonder song has a pulsing drive that only bowed instruments could provide, while Anger's arrangement brings out slinky the Hendrix-like aspects of the Monroe tune.

Assisting Anger in his quest of discovery is Scott Nygaard on guitars, Brittany Haas on 5-string fiddle, Rushad Eggleston and Natalie Haas on cello, Todd and Sickafoose on string bass. Guest vocalists Laurie Lewis and Sara Watkins add a welcome break to this otherwise all-instrumental album. Laurie Lewis' vocals on the Joni Mitchell song "Help Me" display her consummate mastery of both phrasing and articulation. Joni, eat your heart out.

Republic of Strings is the perfect disk to put on during a party, not because it will make people dance, but because it will make people think. Its unique combination of new with familiar seduces the listener into paying attention. On second thought, playing this disc at a party might be a bad idea; after all you don't want everyone just standing around listening, do you?



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