Korey Brodsky is still so young, though has achieved so much. I hesitate to mention his age, as it becomes a hook to hang too much on, and there are lots of examples of that to choose from. Sierra Hull, Sarah Jaroz, just to think of two who are at the moment are getting toward the point where every writer won’t feel compelled to mention how young they are.
But, for now at least, age is still a part of Brodsky’s story. He was a member of the youth all star set at the IBMA in 2013, and youth and chops is the price of admission. The music might be interesting, but the age of the players is what really lights the wick on the fireworks.
Another youth included that year was Samantha Snyder, a fiddler I first saw about 10 years ago or so at a Saturday morning roadhouse jam in Union Grove, NC. A friend said, “you’ve got to make it out and see this girl.” I did, and sure enough, she was remarkable, though at that point it was more about her age that it was her music. Yes, she was good, but it wasn’t the kind of good that, were it on a recording, would have you listening to it over and over again in the car. She was, wilting as it might sound—and I don’t mean it that way—good for her age. That was the draw.
The thing that changed for her since then—and I suspect that this is true of Brodsky as well—is that the pendulum is swinging away from age, and toward music. This collection of tunes, yes, is by a very young and gifted player, but it’s the music, not the age, that is the draw. His touch is deft for any age, and he’s not doing what so many young players do, which is to try impress us with speed. (Thinking of Snyder, her brother Jeb is an amazing guitar player, though I remember seeing him when he still believed that speed equals skill. He’s grown out of that … and he’s incredibly good.)
There is a sense here that he wants to show us what he can do, and, frankly, that’s entirely appropriate at this point in the game. He swings his way delightfully through “Lady Be Good.” Yes, there are some fast ascending runs—he can do fast—but it’s the evenness and the phrasing that make those moments really sing, not the speed.
The collection opens with “Cruizin’” which raises the curtain, though it’s with “Dragonfly” that Brodsky really announces himself. Again, it’s the lyricism, arrangement, and the phrasing that bring his musical voice forward. The vocal pieces are great—Jonathan Edwards guests on vocals—but it’s the instrumental ones that are the bell ringers here. The low tones in “Backing up the Tractor,” the rich accompaniment in “Choices.” It takes a good bit of artistic maturity to let a song tell itself, rather than playing the shit out of it. Brodsky is great—for any age—in that ability to add the support and then step aside, to trust what he’s done, and let the tune speak for itself. Everyone here is doing the same, including Kalia Yeagle and Sofia Chiarandini on fiddle and some sparkling mandolin harmony parts with Michael Sassano and Jesse Brock.
And then there’s “Skye Boat Song.” It takes a musician to do this kind of thing as well as it’s done here—old, young, whatever, who cares. It’s gorgeous, and he uses the tune put a little bit of good into the world. And isn’t that what it’s all about? I think it is. Apparently Brodsky does too.
The first IBMA youth all-stars performance was organized by Pete Wernick in 1993 and included Chris Thile, Michael Cleveland, Josh Williams, and Cody Kilby. They were cute, and great for their age, but that’s not why we know their names now. We know them because they make music that moves us. And, certainly, Brodsky is in that class of player.