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Bill Evans

In Good Company – 2012 (Native & Fine)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Bill Evans

Bill Evans is one of the top banjo players, though his name may not be as familiar to the bluegrass world as, say, J. D. Crowe's. While he has strong ties to bluegrass, including heading up a Scruggs tribute band (complete with Stetsons), he is also an expert in varied banjo styles and you're as likely to hear him playing old-time or jazz as you are bluegrass.

The first thing you'll notice with this new CD is its unusual insert. No run-of-the-mill booklet, it's a 14 x 19 inch array of photos featuring Evans and friends on one side and a large-print standard insert on the other. Score a point for ingenuity.

After you finish admiring the insert, drop the CD in the player and settle back for a treat of banjo music. If you have a visual display you'll note the record company categorizes this as folk music, but don't expect the Kingston Trio. With seven compositions from Evans, this is a combination of bluegrass (Dakota, with David Grier, Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes, Matt Flinner and Missy Raines), jazzy instrumentals (They Say You're Never Lonely In Louisville) and songs like On and On with a bit of the Sarah McLachlan sound, a traditional number Follow The Drinking Gourd (with the Dakota contingent plus Tim O'Brien and Laurie Lewis) with a jazzy, swing feel, to Some Other Creek, a cousin to tunes like Jerusalem Ridge with Grier, Mike Marshall, Tashina andTristan Clarridge and Todd Phillips.

Then there's the nod to rock 'n' roll with a four-number Beatles medley.

While it may sound like a mishmash collision of songs and styles, Evans and his talented friends pull it all together into a delightful and entertaining collection that proves the 5-string banjo (and resonator guitar) has a life away from the bluegrass stage. It's not Flatt & Scruggs but it's great listening.