Bluegrass veteran Jeremy Garrett, best known as the fiddler for The Infamous Stringdusters released this month (August) a solo album with 10 songs that are about as diverse as Brooklyn, N.Y. and as satisfying as a Snickers bar.
Bluegrass fans who are familiar with Garrett’s work with the Stringdusters will not expect boom-chick beats or “G” runs, nor will they hear any. What they will hear is stellar fiddling, and pleasing, sophisticated rhythms, including some that come from far away.
The opening number, an instrumental called “Footprints,” for example, is a cover of a song written about 30 years ago by Jai Uttal, who is known for Indian inspired music and is popular among those who do yoga.
The LP, called Wanderer’s Compass, is also noteworthy for Garrett’s artful layering of fiddle, guitar and mandolin tracks. He sometimes alters them electronically to make interesting, full-sounding arrangements of memorable songs in styles that include R&B, gospel, and funk.
“Magic,” the third track, is a love song that features a dreamy, reverb-laden rhythm, and a smooth soulful vocal by Garrett. It’s like a pop song that might have been heard at a senior prom in the 1970s — but played by a one-man
electronically enhanced acoustic string band! The track even boasts a couple of very cool saxophone solos that are
A highlight for me is when he puts a gospel spin on the bluegrass standard, “Mule Skinner Blues, written by Jimmie Rogers and Vaughn Horton, and famously covered in the past by Bill Monroe and Dolly Parton. I also dig “Wishing Well” a crafty rock ’n’ roll number with hard-strummed acoustic guitar backing, is a Garrett original about trouble in a relationship.
“It’s time to get off of this crazy carousel,” he sings.“I’m tired of throwing everything I’ve got down a wishing well.”
“Good Times,” co-written with Jon Weisberger. It features tasteful guitar picking, a reeling fiddle solo, both by Garrett, and a relaxed back-up vocal by a female singer who goes by one name in the credits: Prisca. Garrett does nearly all of the singing on the LP, his second solo effort for Arden, N.C.-based Organic Records, and he plays all of the instruments, with a couple of exceptions.
Jason Hann provides percussion on “Footprints” and “Good Times,” and Garrett draws guitarist Jon Stickley into a searing fiddle-guitar duel on the eighth track, “I’m Not the Enemy.”
Interestingly, no one plays bass on this recording, and the most “bluegrassy” thing about it, for me, is probably the aggressive way Garrett likes to attack the fiddle strings, reminding me of how Bill Monroe played mandolin.