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Alison Brown

The Company You Keep – 2009 (Compass)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Alison Brown

Alison Brown is a well-known banjoist, who has played with some great names in bluegrass including Alison Krauss and Stuart Duncan, but this album best fits the jazz genre. She had a hand in writing or arranging eight of the numbers and shows her talent both as a composer and player.

Stuart Duncan's fiddle on Rocket Summer and Drawing Down the Moon show why he is one of the best while Joe Craven (David Grisman Quintet) also fiddles. Long-time collaborators John R. Burr (piano) and husband Garry West (bass) also join Brown.

While this is a banjo player's recording, it's clear it is intended as an ensemble that features the banjo, not a banjo-heavy record. The interweaving of instruments keeps each song fresh with new interludes always around the corner. West's electric bass and a variety of percussion instruments provide underlying support throughout.

Sometimes reflective, Over Nine Waves and Drawing Down the Moon, most of the CD is upbeat and progressive. The Clean Plate Club, has an unmistakable good-times feel to it, and they conclude with a jazzy waltz that could have been out of sync with the rest of the tracks, but they make it work admirably.

This is not your standard banjo fare, but Brown and crew have made a banjo recording that is definitely easy listening.