Elegance in Bluegrass

Bill Evans Plays Banjo (Mighty Fine Records)

Bill Evans

By Bob Mitchell

There are a great many talented banjo players today, but one of the finest is Bill Evans. His work stands out because his playing always has an intelligent edge, somehow containing a touch of elegance and sophistication not generally associated with bluegrass.

Nevertheless, he adheres to traditional sounds and feelings. This is Evans' second solo recording, containing 12 original instrumentals plus an energetic cover of Bill Monroe's "Heavy Traffic Ahead." Monroe sure knew how to write 'em - and Evans and his friends sure know how to play 'em. This is a stunning release, in no small part due to Evans' ability to make his playing sound soooo effortless. He plays one smooth banjo.

"Catchin' The Dickens" is a spirited track inspired by the legendary Hazel Dickens with masterful arrangement by Jim Hurst. "Granite Chief" is a hard driving tribute to Sonny Osborne, but oh how I love those mandolin chops from John Reischmann. "Meadows of Dan" lets Rob Ickes' dobro shine for a while. "Petersburg Gal" is an innovative toe-tapper with some fine fiddling from Greg Spatz. "New Black Eyed Suzie," and "Corey's Slide" are phenomenal up-tempo originals. "Lonesome Polka" is playful and frisky. Several tracks skirt the edge of bluegrass arrangements, but they are exhilarating. They include: a gassed-up "Leaving Owensboro," a lightly swinging "Kobe's Blues," and "When She Smiles," a tune influenced by one of my favorite jazz guitarists, Jim Hall.

To find out more, visit www.mightyfinerecords.com