Fiddlers 4,
Fiddlers 4
(Compass, 2002)

This most super of string supergroups includes Bruce Molsky, Michael Doucet, Darol Anger and Rushad Eggleston, and together they blend old-time, Cajun, modern acoustic, jazz and world music all together into an incredibly tasty stew. With players of this caliber, there shouldn't be a weak measure in the mix, and there isn't. It's a string delight from start to finish.

The first of the lucky 13 tracks here, "Pickin' the Devil's Eye," lets us know what we're in for -- a bow to the past with bows set firmly in the present and looking toward the future. We're in Doucet territory with "You Little Wild Thing," a swinging Cajun piece, and Molsky does guitar honors on Duke Ellington's "E. St. Louis Todalo," with amazing support from Rushad's cello. "Hidirassirifo" (easy for you to say) is a griot melody with a pulsing rhythm underneath and wonderful modal harmonies throughout.

A medley of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "I Know" gets gloriously funky, filled with dirty blues lines, and Doucet's "Chez Seychelles" is a charming dance tune, while "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" showcases some fine guitar work by Molsky. Anger's "African Solstice" is a showstopper of a composition, minimalist in nature and filled with intriguing sounds. In this African string quartet you can almost hear the mbira, and in one spot the string harmonies are so close that the overtones almost make the group sound like an accordion.

We're back to the U.S. for that old-time hit du jour, "Man of Constant Sorrow," which gets a fine reading from Molsky's mountain voice and the original Ed Haley fiddle line. Rushad's cello adds a roaring, hellacious undercurrent to the pounding "Mazurka/Acadian Two-Step," and the musical stew gets even spicier with "Greek Medley/Polly Put the Kettle On," which blends jazz and old-time with delicious results. The ensemble work here is a wonder. Doucet's "Danse Caribe" charmingly combines New Orleans with Haitian music, and the CD closes with "Atchafalaya Pipeline," another musical hybrid with a little bit of everything from Klezmer to Cajun to Eastern European, followed by one of those hidden tracks that so many CDs have these days.

The performances are beyond reproach, the compositions are striking and the musical variety is endless on this gem of an album. If you're a fan of any of these performers (and you should be), or a fan of acoustic string music in general, this one's a must have. It's primo, it's smokin', it's mighty fine.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 22 February 2003

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