Jason Ring,
(Old Glove Press, 2007)

Jason Ring is a talented musician from Virginia. With skill on about a dozen instruments, Jason plays his version of bluegrass, the blues and a couple other genres on his CD Patchwork.

The title refers to the various styles of music he brings together to showcase different aspects of the American culture. I should note that this is a solo CD and while you will hear a total of seven instruments, he is the only musician playing.

Patchwork starts out with a (mostly) fast tempo instrumental called the "Driving Song." You can almost feel yourself flying down the road -- at least until you get a few minutes into the track, where it bogs down temporarily in some traffic, I suppose. Fortunately, this interlude is only long enough to make you wonder if you went to the next track before the familiar melody comes racing back and you are driving once again.

"Banjology" is a live track recorded at Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Ga. This tune takes about a minute to start up as Jason mumbles some hard-to-hear words to his audience and simply strums random notes on his banjo. But once he takes off, the listener can only imagine how fast his fingers are flying. If this were another driving song, he would have left the first one in the dust! Like "Driving Song," this tune seems to take a little detour about midway through as well. And once again, I like the song when he gets back on the original road.

My favorite song on Patchwork is "Jebediah's Heartbreak," yet another upbeat tempo, but this time with vocals. The lyrics focus on a man who is having a hard time with love. His friend is singing advice to him. The tune has a ragtime feel. Jason backs himself on the mouth flugel mimicking a trumpet for part of the song. Later he mouths the percussive sound of a snare drum. If I hadn't already known, I would have thought Jason had some backup players with him on this track.

Jason Ring first learned to play the mandolin when he was 4 years old. The guitar followed when he was 5. These days, he can also play the banjo, dobro, bass, upright bass, resonator guitar, mouth flugel, piano, trumpet, trombone and flute. Thanks to the magic of recording studios, you can hear Jason duel on the banjo, mandolin and guitar at the same time on the track titled "The Argument." While his talent on instruments is impressive, Jason is only mediocre in the vocal arena. Still that does not stop him from having a good time on several of the songs.

Patchwork contains 16 tracks comprising over an hour's worth of music. The styles range from bluegrass and folk to the blues and beyond. Most of the tracks are originals, but three are traditional and four are personal interpretations of songs by the likes of Bob Dylan ("Don't Think Twice, It's Alright") and Leonard Cohen ("Hallelujah"). Personally, I tend to like the instrumental tracks more than the others. However, I find Jason's sudden changes in course towards the middle of many tracks before he gets back in the groove to be too abrupt for my taste.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Wil Owen

31 October 2009

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