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John Reischman

Walking Along John – 2013 (Corvus)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by John Reischman

John Reischman is a familiar name in bluegrass circles, though most of his music is heavily influenced by old time stylings. Many people will associate him with The Jaybirds, but this outing centers on him as a mandolinist (and mandola player). Jaybirds members appear here and there, but The Deadly Fox features the entire band. This is a bouncy melody with the mandola leading the way. It's not really old time, but you hear bits of that influence throughout.

This CD has 14 instrumentals and not a single lyric. Reischman composed 11 of them, and the rest are traditional numbers. An all-instrumental album can prove a challenge to stay interesting (let alone come up with names when there's no associated hook), but Reischman chose a variety of side-people and approaches to the songs that helps keep you listening. Side By Each gets repetitive, a duet with Reischman and Bruce Molsky's fiddle and will likely lose you unless you are especially attuned to the intricacies of instrumental music. It's repeated again with a full band playing (including Kenny Smith on guitar), and this version is more likely to hold your attention. Little Maggie, on the other hand, is played as a slow, haunting solo, only a minute long and bearing no resemblance to the bluegrass number sung by many including Dr. Ralph Stanley. It serves as an intro to Salt River, a song that is allegedly the precursor to Bill Monroe's famous Salt Creek.

Some numbers are soft, such as Anisa's Lullaby and A Prarie Jewel, while Gold Mountain Blues is yet another haunting melody. Itzbin Reel (featuring Chris Thile) and Joe Ahr's Dream (featuring Tony Trischka) are close to mainstream bluegrass. (According to the liner notes and the Discogs website. Joe Ahr was one of Bill Monroe's psuedonyms.)

If you enjoy bluegrass/old time instrumental music then this is a gem which travels several musical paths, from the old time sounds of Walk Along John To Kansas and Ice On The Dogwater (both mandola/fiddle duets) to the happy, flowing melodies of Little Pine Siskin.