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Marshall Wilborn

Root 5 – 1999 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by Marshall Wilborn

Bluegrass and opera don't have much in common. There is however, one pervasive stereotype that invades both genres. In bluegrass and classic Italian opera, the bass is always the comedian, the clown. Too long undervalued in bluegrass, it is only now that the great bassists are being recognized. That is why a new Marshall Wilborn record is always worthy of celebration.

Wilborn's got everything that makes for a good bluegrass bassist: fine intonation, solid timing, and a big sound. Wilborn's also got charisma, charm and great senses of swing and economy - ingredients which make for a great bass player. On "Root 5" (named for the classic oom-pah pattern of bluegrass bass), Wilborn takes a simple concept and creates a vibrant, fun record. On each cut, he welcomes a great banjo player to join him.

Some tracks are straight duets; one is two-banjo trio; four feature a snare drum for rhythmic propulsion, and one cut is Wilborn alone, overdubbing his own banjo and bass playing. Featured players include Tom Adams (a cheeky "Lady of Spain"), Pete Wernick, Lynn Morris and Scott Vestal. The only vocal cut, "I've Been All Around This World," features Wilborn's disarming, almost boyishly charming voice. Picking highlights is nearly impossible, as each guest brings his or her unique quirks to the project - while Wilborn is so consistently supportive yet funky.