3D – Casey Driessen
Sugar Hill Records 4016
Newgrass fans, bluegrass fans, fiddle fans, hell, even jazz fans, check out
the sonic experiments of Casey Driessen. His debut album, 3D, is funky,
traditional, experimental, passionate, and even funny at times. It is his
introduction to the world in a lot of ways, but many people are certainly
already familiar with his work. Casey was playing fiddle in Steve Earle’s
Bluegrass Dukes at age 20, and getting regular calls to play with Tim
O’Brien. In 2005, he toured as part of an acoustic trio with Bela Fleck and
Bryan Sutton, a prestigious gig that helped introduce him to a much larger
audience. At 27, Driessen has already grown into a player of
incredible range, duly respecting the musical traditions of the past yet
tastefully embracing the technology of today.
The unifying album core of Driessen on fiddles and occasional vocals,
Viktor Krauss on bass, and Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion, is joined
by several high profile guests on various tracks. The opening "Sally In The
Garden" is an interesting modern take on the traditional with Jerry Douglas
on dobro and Tim O’Brien on bouzouki.
Driessen reinvents many traditional tunes on 3D, even taking "Cumberland
Gap" so far into his own world that he decided to rename it "Gaptooth." He
had played the creation when touring with the acoustic trio of Fleck and
Sutton, so Bela fittingly contributed banjo on this version as well. Casey
breathes funky new life into Bill Monroe’s classic "Jerusalem Ridge" with
the warm thick sound of multiple fiddle tracks layered on top of one
another, an idea he began working on while a student at Berklee. "Sugarfoot
Rag/Freedom Jazz Dance" is a seamless segue from one fun upbeat cover to the
next with help from Darrell Scott on electric guitar and harmony vocals.
Another set of segued tunes "Snowflake Reel/Done Gone/Cheyenne," is an
energetic Americana fiddle and drum duet, with a little jazz flavor thanks
According to Casey’s very personal and insightful liner notes, "Cliff
Dweller’s Slide" was the first tune that the album core of Haddad, Krauss and
himself played together. There is a very natural sounding flow to the tune
as they get to know each other musically. Listening with that in mind you
hear each instrument slowly drifting out from the main theme as they
experiment with each other, eventually returning to the familiar before
venturing out yet again.
On his solo cover of Hot Rize’s "Footsteps So Near," Casey’s funky
syncopated chops show us that if need be, he can provide his own percussion
with his fiddle. The tuned down grit and growl of "Country Blues" chugs
right along, and is an appropriate lead-in to some more growling on the
album’s hidden track, "Good Boy Blues." The hilarious bonus tune features
the Chewbacca-esque vocal debut of Driessen’s faithful Staffordshire
Terrier, Linus, in a duet with Casey’s fiddle.
Casey Driessen’s 3D is a beautifully polished piece of work, firmly
announcing his presence in the world of Newgrass, and successfully forging
new ground in the realm of fiddle music.