Well-arranged mandolins

Plectrasonics (CMH
Nashville Mandolin Ensemble

By John Goodin

In its short existence, the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra has opened many ears to the joys of what our German friends call "Zupfmusik" (plucked string music). The LMO's fresh approach to the mandolin orchestra tradition was at least part of the inspiration when Butch Baldassari formed the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble in 1991. Plectrasonics is the Nashville group's excellent first recording.

All the elements are here: some of Nashville's finest players, production by Richard Bennett, great material and masterful arrangements from the legendary John Carlini and Louisville's own Ken White. The group is usually around ten players on mandolins, guitars, mandola. mandocello and bass. The recorded sound is close-miked and warm, and the program is carefully paced.

lf you've only got ten minutes to spare, ask the record store clerk to start at track ten and hear the really cool arrangement of the Beatles' "Because," followed by the swinging Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grappelli tune "Tears." Both of these point to the closer, Bill Monroe's soulful "My Last Days on Earth," given a brilliant arrangement that brings out the passion and mystery of what may be Monroe's most "classical" composition.

Once you're sold, take the disc home and enjoy the group's versions of Mingus' "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat" and the campy "Where No Mandolin Has Gone Before a/k/a Star Trek." That's only half the tunes Every cut's a winner.