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Wayne Benson

An Instrumental Anthology – 2003 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Wayne Benson

For the last several years, Wayne Benson has been the mandolin player for IIIrd Tyme Out, one of the more consistently successful bands on the bluegrass circuit. As the title makes clear, this is an all-instrumental disc, a dozen original tunes by Benson. Though the last couple of years may have led many to think that Chris Thile is the only young mandolin player doing distinctively original and imaginative music with that instrument, Benson shows a lot of depth and variety, and unlike Thile's recent work with his band Nickel Creek, Benson is still much more firmly rooted in solid bluegrass.

The sterling supporting cast helps reinforce this - Scott Vestal (who also produced), Rob Ickes, Ronnie Stewart, Rickie Simpkins, Jeff Autry and John Cowan are just a few of the top-notch pickers guesting. It's not just flat-out, hard-driving bluegrass, either, as evidenced by the moody, ethereal closing track, "Spagnum Peat." Instrumental albums can often be tedious, but Benson is consistently interesting and varied on this one.