A couple of months ago, I heard of a new album coming out by Tom Neal titled Banjoland. I've learned over time that if a new and exciting release comes out and, it comes out on the Patuxent Music label, that it deserves a listen. This time, however, it became an addiction. I can't stop listening to this album. The variety of style, emotion and perfection. holds me.
Tom Neal handles every style of banjo I've ever heard with awesome precision. From Scruggs to Crowe and all players in between, Neal shows us how its done. With bluegrass, blues, jazz and even a slight of Dixieland, the melodic styles just flow from this project's 14 tracks. There is no repetition here. This is a great banjo album that pretty much covers the traditional landscape.
The artists backing up Neal are superb and well suited to this project. The third and forth tracks bear this out well. On "Charmaine" the mandolin of Frank Solivan II is a perfect fit. Not only that but the expressive fiddle of Michael Cleveland adds an entire dimension to the track. Mark Cosgrove on guitar and Marshall Wilborn on bass tie it all together. These five artists create a whole new acoustic world with "Charmaine." Knowing full well that you'll be hungering for more, up comes track four and "Cincinnati Rag" where these same artists deliver.
Not only is Neal capable of a variety of emotive styles, he can move from one to the other effortlessly and with atistic subtlty. This album is primarily instrumental and this helps to further showcase what this banjo artist is capable of. From the traditional sounds of "Reuben" and "Shenandoah Breakdown" to more contemporary sounding songs like "Coal Miner's Gold" and even some Tom Neal originals, every track comes through clean, bright and alive.
If you enjoy hard driving, solid banjo, then you will certainly enjoy Banjoland. I would certainly enjoying hearing a lot more music like this. It doesn't get much better. Artists found on this latest project include Tom Neal - banjo, Michael Cleveland - fiddle, Mark Cosgrove - guitar, Jon Glik- fiddle, Russ Hooper - dobro, Dick Laird - mandolin, Heath Laird - bass, Marc MacGlashan - mandolin, John Miller - vocal, Tom Mindte - vocal, Jeff Presley - vocal, Ron Rice - bass, Frank Solivan II - mandolin, Carroll Swam - guitar, and Marshall Wilborn - bass.
Tracks on this project include: