july 2009

Photo by Dan Marcus
David Grier: When you listen to
Evocative you'll be transported somewhere else for a bit.

David Grier
Dreadnought Recordings

Well known and regarded with great affection and respect by his fellow musicians and legions of guitar-centric fans (he's about to retire the IBMA's Best Guitar Player of the Year award), David Grier is stretching out his new album, telling titled Evocative. Which is not to suggest he's doing any less picking than usual—this all-instrumental, 10-song outing is abundant in captivating and challenging electric and acoustic sorties by the gifted Grier, but after two solo acoustic albums he's back to working with other musicians, and this too is good news. Here he's enlisted some high-profile friends, including the visionary bassist Victor Wooten on five cuts, the great fiddler Stuart Duncan on three cuts, with both Scott Vestal and the Punch Brothers' Noam Pikelny sitting in on banjo at different junctures, Byron House on acoustic bass, Andrea Zonn on fiddles and viola, the indomitable steel master Paul Franklin, empathetic drummer John Gardner and multiple threat Jeff Taylor adding memorable work on keyboards, accordion and pennywhistle. To Grier's evocative, rolling phrases in the bright-spirited "As It Rolls To the Sea" Pikelny provides support with running banjo commentary as Taylor interjects subtle, zesty keyboard fills, even as Grier and drummer Gardner keep the ship of state sailing in brisk, forward momentum. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, "Road to Hope"'s searching, wistful quality is enhanced by the atmospheric accordion Taylor supplies in between the moody, serpentine musings articulated in the full-bodied sound of Grier's electric guitar. In the bends, pull-offs, slides and chimes Grier employs in "As Easy As Falling Off a Log" lies the evocation of languorous summer days spent without care or concern for the outside world, easy as you go. Vestal on banjo and Duncan on fiddle weave in and around Grier's jittery melody on "Four Dogs Jogging," and both have their say in sprightly, energetic solos before ceding ground to Grier's hard charging guitar attack. Playing acoustic, Grier offers tenderly picked ruminations on the lovely "Teela," with added aching atmosphere courtesy Duncan's low-key fiddling and Franklin's soulful, delicate pedal steel cries. In his mastery of tone, in his precision picking and in the way he takes melodies apart and puts them back together, Grier nods to Norman Blake, whereas the rich and varied dynamics he brings to his interactions with other instruments recall the approach of Joe Pass. Heck, when he gets to wailing and surfing on electric on "What a Way to Go," you might even think of a picker named Duane Allman. In a stunning reprise of "High Atop Princess Cove," heard solo acoustic on his 2007 Live At the Linda CD, his graceful, multi-layered picking, so reminiscent of John Fahey at his most spiritual, is shadowed by Andrea Zonn's expressive but restrained fiddling to create a moment of rustic grandeur, something so intrinsically tied to the land you can almost feel the soil beneath your feet. The point being that when you listen to Evocative you'll be transported somewhere else for a bit, where memory summons a whole range of feelings that are the stuff of life. Look inward, and there you'll find David Grier's instrumental music speaking a truth that needs no words to get its humanistic message across. —David McGee

Buy it at www.davidgrier.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024