Banjo maestro Béla Fleck and his band have spent much of the last few years exploring "bigger is better" territory, piling on overdubs and calling in a posse of like-minded guests. They pull off that highway on The Hidden Land -- which is a decidedly more dirt-road-styled jaunt, filled with high with organic, live-in-the-studio performances of stripped-down songs. Fleck flexes his muscle more robustly here than he has in a while, conjuring up images of Appalachian hill country on the good-timey "Couch Potato," as well as sonic snapshots of more far-flung lands, as he does on "Chennai," which suggests the streets of Calcutta. As ever, the quartet evince bountiful good humor, which is both a blessing and a curse -- on "Subterfuge (Bond)," for instance, they trot out some all-too-obvious 007 riffs. Still, there's no disputing how instinctively these musicians intertwine -- the ensemble work on the Bach fugue that opens the disc is both pitch-perfect and persuasively emotive. And unlike ghosts of prog-rock past, the Flecktones don't rub listeners' noses in the fact that they're being cultured -- they simply set up a sonic buffet and invite 'em to graze to their hearts' content.
The Hidden Land 4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
After a while, it becomes hard to say anything new about a Bela Fleck and The Flecktones CD. This is a case in point. Most of the tracks are fine; it's just that I can't think of anything I haven't said in other reviews. Subterfuge is an exception. Fleck plays an electric banjo and sounds like an electric guitarist with feedback.