Chris Thile has been playing John's tune "Itzbin Reel" (on which they duet) since he was just 8 years old! And Eli West spent his college years obsessing over John's albums. This is John Reischman's first new solo album in 13 years (he's known for his work leading the red-hot Canadian bluegrass band John Reischman & The Jaybirds) and it's a return to his love of bluegrass music and his quest for the perfect tone from the bluegrass mandolin.
John Reischman is one of the premier mandolinists of his generation. He’s a master instrumentalist capable of swinging between re-inventions of traditional old-time tunes, deconstructions from the bluegrass repertoire, and compelling original tunes. He’s also a powerful bandleader, touring his band the Jaybirds all over Canada and the United States. But most of all, he’s an understated visionary, the kind of master craftsman whose music is virtuosic without ever being flashy and who is renowned for his impeccable taste and tone as an artist. John Reischman embodies the true spirit of bluegrass in the 21st century.
Check out this gorgeous video of John Reischman with the Jaybirds. It was filmed by Matt Miles of Fretboard Journal out on the Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia.
Walk Along John is John Reischman’s first solo instrumental album in thirteen years, and it’s a triumphant return to form. It’s also a celebration of his seminal influence in the world of bluegrass and “new acoustic music,” a movement he contributed to with Tony Rice in the 1980s.
A new generation of musicians has now grown up playing his tunes at jams and obsessing over his recordings. Chris Thile of The Punch Brothers joins John on the opening tune “Itzbin Reel,” an early composition of John’s that Chris has been playing since the age of 8. Eli West, from Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, listened endlessly to John’s recordings while studying in college and guests on the album as well. Other next gen star players on the album include Sam Grisman and Mike Barnett from the young grasscore band The Deadly Gentlemen, and Canadian clawhammer banjo king Chris Coole.
Old friends return as well, from renowned old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky to innovative banjo genius Tony Trischka and star bluegrass guitarist Kenny Smith, not to mention members of John’s band The Jaybirds. But the real focus of the album is John’s musicianship, both as an artist and as a composer. His compositions, many of which have become jamming standards, run the gamut from the old-timey “Little Pine Siskin” to the bluesy (in the Dock Boggs sense) “Gold Mountain Blues,” the eerily modal “Ice on the Dogwater,” the blazing Bill Monroe tribute tune “Joe Ahr’s Dream,” and the softly gentle waltzes “Anisa’s Lullaby” and “A Prairie Jewel.”
John’s compositions shine here because he has the subtle ability to draw out the true heart of the melody. He does this through his lifelong obsession with obtaining the purest tones from his mandolin playing. It’s the same quest that drove Monroe to the roots of the music looking for “ancient tones,” and it’s a quest shared by other great mandolinists. Coupled with his renowned sense of musical taste, John Reischman is able to redefine the sound of bluegrass mandolin without ever veering away from the traditions at its core.
Walk Along John plumbs the deepest level of John Reischman's talent. His years of touring, guesting, and inspiring have given his music a weight that few other artists have attained. After 35 years of playing at the forefront of the American bluegrass tradition, it should come as no surprise that he still has a lot to say. The album is available on CD Baby now. Chris Thile has been playing John