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Posted October 1, 2010
Proficient, innovative and aqueous banjo playing
Playing Time – 50:35 -- Individualism in music is a goal for many musicians who enjoy the challenge of pushing their technical skills into realms of innovation and adventure. The impressively virtuosic Alison Brown has a broad base of experience to draw upon. A bit of trivia is that Alison's tune, “Girl’s Breakdown” (from her Grammy-nominated “Fair Weather” album) was used in early 2000 as the official wake up music for the crew of the U.S. Space Shuttle Destiny on their mission to the International Space Station. So what next for someone whose music has reached the depths of outer space? “Stolen Moments” is an astounding display of melodic invention that continues to characterize this one-of-a-kind player. Her expressive musicality incorporates elements of many genres from Celtic (her own “Carrowkeel”) to pop (Jimi Henrix’s “Angel” or Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” or Jim Rooney/Bill Keith’s “One Morning in May”). These pop numbers include some superb vocals that make the album whole (courtesy of folks like Amy Ray, Emily Saliers, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Andrea Zonn). Mary Chapin Carpenter also appears. While credits aren’t clear, I assume that she’s one of the four singing “Boomchicks” (Thighdalia, Aureola, Ovaria, and Fallopia) who appear on “Prayer Wheel.” Instrumental new acoustic jazz is well represented in cuts like “The Sound of Summer Running” and “The Magnificent Seven” (written with John Doyle) that has a seven-beat meter in the tune’s head. With the exception of “One Morning in May,” arranged without banjo, the 5-string finds itself laying just right into the greater ensemble mix while piano, bass, guitar, fiddle, drums, and even a little mandolin create the kaleidoscope of sound. Mike Marshall seems right in his element on Brown’s playful “Musette for a Palindrome.” Seamus Egan plays an emotive low whistle on one track, “Carrowkell,” while the similarly Celtic-flavored “(I’m Naked and I’m) Going to Glasgow” includes Solas guitarist John Doyle. John R. Burr gives us some superior, jaw-dropping piano accompaniment that evokes a more smooth jazz sound. As much as I dislike drums in acoustic music, Kenny Malone’s percussion is downright tasty in this particular context. Alison’s husband, Garry West, plays bass. Alison Brown is a confident musician who continues to make creative and courageous statements with her music. She’s a daring stalwart whose proficient and aqueous banjo playing leaves us with pleasurable aural experiences that know few borders. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, OR.)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.