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Published: 2002/04/22
by Chris Gardner

Acoustic Disc: 100% Handmade Music, volume VI – various artists

Acoustic Disc 48

By now, we know what to expect from Acoustic Disc: exceptional musicianship,
exquisite tones from gorgeous instruments, virtuosity spanning a wide gamut
of styles, talents and tunes that span the globe and the eras, an earful of
playful picking from David Grisman, and a few lost nuggets of varying
potency from Dawg's cache of "lost" Jerry Garcia material. Volume VI does
not disappoint. This is, of course, the equivalent of a movie trailer,
designed to entice you into further purchase. With that in mind, here are
the discs that are fresh additions to my eternal list of "Albums to Buy"
that somehow never makes it to the record store with me.

The Pizza Tapes – Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Tony Rice
(Acoustic Disc 41)

Have you ever dodged an album/book/movie for reasons you can't explain? I
have never heard London Calling, have never seen _Apocalypse
Now!_, and have never read Sound and the Fury. No explanations.
The same goes for The Pizza Tapes. As a steady fan of all three
players, you might expect to find it in my stacks with the rest of their
work. Not so. Why not? No explanations. Maybe I didn't think about
hearing Jerry's signature slink sidling up next to Tony's showboating
flash. Maybe I underestimated the charm of hearing the three in such
relaxed environs. Maybe I didn't care to hear Jerry's battered pipes tackle
"Man of Constant Sorrow". (Grisman is no fool, by the way. Volume VI
leads off with the label's moneyman creaking through the Stanley standard
which may now be neck-n-neck with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and "Rocky Top"
in the race for the prized "Best Loved Bluegrass Tune of All Time" title.)
Whatever my faulty reasoning, I was not half way through Jerry's first solo
before I decided to pick this one up, despite the almost painful "Amazing
Grace" that follows.

Tone Poems III – David Grisman, Bill Brozman, Mike Auldridge
(Acoustic Disc 42)

Listening to this trio tackle "Moonlight Bay", all armed with resophonic
guitars, piqued my interest, but the Wilson-ish bounce and the swagger of
"New Steal" with Grisman on resophonic mandolin sealed the deal. Acoustic
Disc has a respect for the voice of each instrument that few labels can
rival, and the players often seem like the keys that let the instruments
sing. "New Steal" lets these strings sing their hearts out. As with all
the Tone Poems series, the instruments are some of the world's finest and
the recordings do them justice. Sometimes a single shot or a joke on a
movie trailer will send you to the theatres. "New Steal" is the track that
will put me in the record store.

New River – Danny Zeitlin (piano), David Grisman (mandolin)
(Acoustic Disc 45)

Grisman and Zeitlin's "catch me if you can" antics on the Grisman penned
"Fourteen Miles to Barstow" is a treat, but it is the duo's fluidity as
they swerve between rhythms, tempos, and keys that clinches it. These two
dance like hummingbirds in a mating ritual, sensing each other intuitively.
Each note feels inevitable, destined, and true. The focus shifts from one
to the other, but neither ever seems to take the back seat. Rather, each
complements the other so well that neither would seem complete without his
counterpart/counterpoint. In short, this is what it means to be "tuned
in", and these two masters are a sheer joy to listen to. (For the record,
I made it a firm practice to dodge phrases like "a sheer joy" at all costs,
but I think I may just have been saving it for this.)

These three discs will find their way into my hot little hands sooner rather
than later, but two other cuts on the disc deserve quick mention. The
Jerry/Grisman/Jim Kerwin/Joe Craven rendering of "God Rest Ye Merry
Gentlemen" features a holy bass solo from Kerwin, and the sprightly
Grisman/Beppe Gambetta (harp guitar)/Carlo Anonzo (mandolin) take on
Giovanni Gioviale's "Costumi Siciliani" flourishes around the twinned
mandolin themes.

This disc does exactly what it intends to do, lures the listener into
further purchase while still standing on its own as a disc worth owning. I
won't be grabbing anything from Charles Sawtelle despite "My Life Is In Your
Hands" with Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Todd Phillips, and you won't find
me digging around for Frank Vignola's solo guitar work anytime soon. But
the secondary intent of the volume is to narrow the buyer's mind, focus it
on a few discs and eliminate the rest, and this is a very effective volume.

Seven discs represented, and I am hunting for three. Folks that's a batting
average somewhere north of Ted Williams.

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