Brown, Sullivan & Co.,
Magnum Banjos
(1972; Sequatchie, 2000)

Recorded in 1971 and released on vinyl in 1972, Magnum Banjos has finally been re-released after 28 years. What took so long?? The music on this disc is amazing; Brown, Sullivan & Co. created something wonderful when they got together way back when.

In any case, the musicians who work their magic on this CD are Fred Sullivan (banjo), Edward Brown (banjo), Delmore Brown (rhythm guitar), Newell Angel (rhythm guitar), Dale Meador (rhythm guitar), Bob Martin (rhythm guitar), Harold Cummings (rhythm guitar and mandolin), Billy Womack (fiddle) and Bob Rogers (acoustic bass). One note, while it might look like there are a lot of guitar players on the CD, there is never more than one playing on any song.

The CD starts off at full speed with "Camilla Run," and the music gives the feel of speeding down back roads on a summer's day. They hardly slow down for "Arkansas Traveler," the fiddle taking the lead for a while and inviting you to dance with the music. But the music keeps returning to the banjos (which explains the title) and in "Irish Washerwoman Jig" they give you a decently paced number.

They switch gears for "Rhapsody in D Minor," which picks up a classical feel every now and then, even as it races down the road. "Billy Low in the Ground" has a folksier feel, with the feel of lyrics peeking through even though no one is singing -- particularly when the fiddle is playing.

The band heads back to the dance floor with "Miss Brown's Waltz," then kicks up the tempo again for "Old Joe Clark" -- a dance tune where having fun is more important then style.

"Red Haired Boy" starts off like a slow ballad and accellerates into a faster song. "The Essence of Sequatchie County" paints a picture of the land and the people -- you can tell that a lot of love went into the song.

The closing trio starts off with "Durang's Hornpipe," maintaining its pace as the lead swaps back and forth between the fiddle and banjos. They continue the dancing with the "Banjo Waltz," and both the fiddle and banjos dance throughout this piece. Then they leave you with "Waltzing Matilda" and, again, you can almost hear the lyrics in the music. They do a masterful job on it.

The music on Magnum Banjos is simply great. The longest track is just over 3 minutes and none of the tracks feel short. Each tune is exactly the right length. Listen to it and let the music show you what I mean.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 8 July 2001