Release Date: Aug 1, 1999
Label: Corvus Records
Catalog Number: 779613200625
“I hadn’t written anything in a while” Reischman says of his latest CD. What sparked him was a pair of shows that he did in tribute to the music of Bill Monroe. “It was all written after Monroe passed away. I think all the musicians enjoyed playing it.” And what a supporting cast of players he has assembled – Todd Phillips (bass), Gabe Witcher (fiddle), Jim Nunally (guitar), Dennis Caplinger (fiddle), Scott Nygaard (guitar), Nick Hornbuckle (banjo), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Kathy Kallick (guitar) and John Miller (guitar).
Here’s one beauty of an album. John Reischman makes it strong, pretty, clean and rich, no matter the mood or tempo. And, as a bonus he’s given us a blast of high pedigree, spanking new original tunes that pretty well cover the entire rooted landscape of Bill Monroe’s music. John’s got a hell of a backup band, too. They can burn bright and lonesome on such tunes as Low Gap, or sweet-bluesy on a gem like The North Shore.
John is one of the few who manages to combine heart and technique in his playing. He’s precise, but in being so he never sacrifices the soul of his music. Just drop the needle on Alexandra Waltz, and you’ll see what I mean.
A few moments that knock me out: Dennis’s drop-jaw solo on Nootka Blues (incorporating elements of either Bill Monroe or Chuck Berry, depending on your perspective), Scott’s rippling turn on The Eighth of February and the indomitably righteous mando-banjo unison to end the tune, the beautiful melody (and title) that is Ponies in the Forest, John’s Monroe-flecked solo on Indiana Firefly, and Rob Ickes’ plaintive outing on The North Shore. I could go on, but these are just a few of many highlights.
Whereas many albums are characterized by a drop-off in listener interest with repeated airings, this album reveals more of itself with each spin. Taste and virtuosity abound, and there’s plenty enough to keep you coming back to this deep well.
(Adapted from the liner notes, written by
acclaimed banjo player Tony Trischka).
One of the best things I’ve ever done in the recording studio was work with John Reischman on some CBC sessions for local psychobilly wildman Chris Houston. I still remember standing in the control room, along with a handful of grizzled punks and jaded techs, watching in amazement as the mandolinist pulled one perfect part after another out of thin air. What was even more impressive was that this was the first time he’d ever performed with a rock and roll band. Up In The Woods finds him on more familiar ground, with an acoustic ensemble and a program of original bluegrass instrumentals. But the things that I remember from that day are here too: his big, confident tone, his rhythmic assurance; and especially, his knack for penning singable melodies that conceal a devious twist. Even if you don’t like bluegrass, the perfectly beautiful Ponies in the Forest might convert you to the cause, and there are half a dozen tunes on Up in the Woods that are just as fine.