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Published: 2003/06/26
by Chris Gardner

Insofarasmuch – Two High String Band

Blue Corn Music 0301

The disarmingly beautiful title-cut and opener to the newest Two High String
Band album tells you
almost everything you need to know about this acoustic quartet from Texas.
Two High doesn't play traditional music, but their music comes from the same
place. It resonates somewhere deep in the ages, in the old and weathered
soul of
acoustic music, giving you the sense that it has already stood the test of
time. The title track has a gentle rhythmic hitch that infuses its
stately procession with a wistful grin. Just after the three-minute mark,
all instruments fall away save Billy Bright's mandola restating the theme.
Bryn Bright's bass resurfaces moments later beginning an instrumental round,
and she is soon followed by Geoff Union and Brian Smith on guitars. It's a
dexterous bit of music that resolves in a sigh rather than a rush as it
falls back into unison. It is the first and by far the softest of the
album's several Billy-penned instrumentals, and it's nothing short of

Billy Bright brings to this album the same flair for writing distinctive
instrumentals that made last year's _Bill
and Bryn Bright_ album such an eye-opener. Insofarasmuch’s
second instrumental, "Sonny's Ride," chugs along with David Grisman and
Vassar Clements aboard. It's a tribute to Billy's mandolin playing that you
have to listen closely to pick out the Dawg, and Vassar brings his patently
unpredictable fiddle to bear. "All Day" finds the band flexing its muscles
unassisted and features some brilliantly understated bass work from Bryn as
well as some of Geoff Union's finest work. Union, who recently joined the
band full-time, has clearly absorbed his fair share of Norman Blake and Tony
Rice, and he plays with a fluid and slippery sense of time that opens up
entirely new avenues of exploration. He and Billy shine together on "Thanks
Norman," which captures Blake's distinctive sense of time joyously and
precisely in playful tribute. The band follows its tribute to Norman with
its tribute to Grisman, who again joins in for "Dang, Howdy!". It's
blistering Dawg-grass under-pinned by a driving, "First Tube"-ish bass line
that gives Dawg, Billy, Geoff, and Vassar free rein. The tune captures
Grisman's virtuosic dexterity, but more importantly it capitalizes on his
sneaky sense of humor. No musician in the world is more likely to make you
laugh with his instrument, and the influence of that playfulness shows
through Billy's song-writing.

The abundance of instrumentals should not suggest that the band can't sing.
Brian Smith may not have the whiskey-blistered pipes of Guy Clark, but the
clear strength of his voice breathes life into "Bunkhouse Blues" (a tune
Clark penned with Verlon Thompson) and "Old Grey Mare" (a traditional tune
played the way Norman Blake plays it.) Still, it is when Brian and Bryn
harmonize that things really come alive. Their take on Merle Haggard's
"Somewhere Between" is stirring and perfectly frames the "true
country"-sensibilities that Smith brings to the band. Vassar swings the saw
throughout, making even the clumsy and broken-hearted want to get up and
waltz. Billy sings John Hartford's "You Can't Run Away From Your Feet" and a
pair of originals, the better of which is easily the bluesy "Alabama" which
again demonstrates the band's ability to enliven a tune with their nuanced
sense of rhythm. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Vassar's back either.

There is a reason the greats of acoustic music want to play with this band.
Two High String Band gets it. They don't mimic. They don't imitate. Rather,
they study and absorb the essence of truly great acoustic music. Traditional
acoustic music isn't great because it reminds us of the old days. It isn't
great because it captures a time. It is great because it is honest, and
unpretentious. It is great because it applauds mastery without losing its
sense of whimsy. Insofarasmuch is the work of a band that knows this

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