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Published: 2002/07/23
by Chris Gardner

self-titled – Billy and Bryn Bright

Blue Corn Music 0201

Billy and Bryn Bright must be pinching themselves. As two thirds of the Two High String Band, they have been
wowing central Texans for years now. They tour the country alongside Peter
Rowan (who looks more and more like a founding father everyday) and Tony
Rice, and they have finally seen the long-awaited release of their own disc,
recorded in 2000. The self-titled album is the second release for fledgling
acoustic label Blue Corn Music,
and the second exquisite piece in their catalog. The Brights get help from
Peter, Tony, Danny Barnes, Vassar Clements and Eamon McLoughlin as they
flesh out nine of Billy's original tunes and a reworked "Coleraine". From
the Dawg flavored opener, "Guillermo", to the doleful chiming of "Veteran's
Day", Bright demonstrates a knack for writing tunes that resonate and bring
out the best in each of the assembled players.

Bryn's bass shapes the backbone of each tune. The deep rumble of
"Masquerade Waltz" drives the somber dance, and the buoyant, bouncing line
of "Santisima Muerte" keeps the Latin swing afloat. Danny Barnes of Bad
Livers' fame blisters "Vegan in the Woods", and Vassar brings his signature
sawing to nine of ten tracks, most notably "Jerusalem Cafe", a companion
piece that more than holds its own beside Bill Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge".
Tony Rice sounds like he is in a league of his own, even in this room full
of heavyweights. He constantly surprises, approaching each tune from
melodic and harmonic angles no one else considers. His fall-in on
"Guillermo" changes the entire shape of the song with the first five notes,
and his dance around Bryn's bass line to open "Masquerade Waltz" proves that
he opens new sound ways even when he is just playing around.

Despite the more than able help, the Brights remain the stars of this
debut. While the style of each tune varies significantly, Billy's clear
writing voice shines through every cut. His simple phrasings are at once
fresh and deeply familiar. One of the strengths of the Two High String Band
is their ability to render traditional material with startling honesty, and
Billy channels the same understanding into his songwriting. He and Bryn
shaped many of these pieces for years before they hit the tracks. Some,
like the beautiful "Timberline Mine", and the sprightly "Kricket in the
Kitchen", have been recorded before, but they all have the comfortable feel
of broken-in jeans. While Billy can fly along with the rest on the quicker
numbers, it is the restrained chording of "Veteran's Day" that best
demonstrates his substance over flash approach to the mandolin, and attitude
that permeates the disc.

"Billy and Bryn Bright" showcases the talents of some of bluegrass music's
finest musicians while still leaving the Brights at the fore. These songs
stand up to any in the catalog of acoustic music, and – for many – this
will serve as an introduction to a pair of musicians who will be with us for
a very long time.

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