Walk Along John is John Reischman’s first solo instrumental album in thirteen years, and it’s a triumphant return to form.
JOHN REISCHMAN IS AN UNDERSTATED VISIONARY…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.
John Reischman is among the living American Mandolin Masters. His Iconic playing with the Tony Rice unit more than 20 years ago has earned him a place in the legendary birth of Dawg music in the late 70s and early 80s. Here Reischman and his compatriots – a stellar line up form the acoustic music scene, show a maturity in American String band music, like a fine mellow Bourbon, rich and full of flavor yet subdued and stately. Reischman’s mandolin and playing ring true, the tunes are inventive and imaginative floating in space over a joyous string band undercurrent. I loved this before I finished the first listen through and haven’t taken it off the player yet if you are a fan of bluegrass, newgrass or old time sting band music – this is a refreshing collection of picking from one the giants of the mandolin.
Expect to find Walk Along John on a whack of 2013 top 10 lists, including mine.
Walk Along John is near aural perfection. It is a stellar bluegrass instrumental album…
The all-instrumental Walk Along John (from the traditional “Walk Along John to Kansas,” included here) features Vancouver, British Columbia-based master John Reischman in the company of a revolving cast of bluegrass and folk musicians from around the continent. Eleven of the 14 cuts are Reischman’s tradition-flavored originals, picked with his characteristic precision, charm and accessibility. He has always distinguished himself as an unusually subtle bluegrass performer. While only occasionally delving into straight-ahead ‘grass, Walk keeps the focus not just on top-flight picking but on memorable tunes. It can be a challenge for an instrumental album to be so dependent on the work of a single composer, but that’s no problem here. The pleasures begin with the first cut and don’t end till the record is through.