Coolgrass – Never Put The Banjo Down CD review by Ian Dearden
In the 1940’s, Bill Monroe took country and old time string band music and created the hybrid we now know as “bluegrass”. Over many years and stylistic variations, including “Newgrass”, “Hillbilly Jazz” and “Bluegrass Gospel”, bluegrass has proved itself to be a durable and eminently listenable genre, capable of taking just about any raw musical material and presenting it “bluegrass style” (as the late lamented Sensitive New Age Cowpersons would have said!) The four piece Melbournebased Coolgrass (nice pun, boys!) utilise traditional bluegrass instrumentation, lead by Jim Golding on banjo, with Bruce Packard on mandolin, Doug Wallace on guitar and Angus Golding on double bass. Each of these members performs superbly as musicians and their vocals combine well in the traditional four part “stack vocals” essential to the genre. Their material ranges from Steve Miller’s Jet Airliner, through Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing, to more traditional numbers such as Dark Eyes, along the way including original songs and tunes primarily from the pen of Jim Golding and a medley of Earl Scruggs banjo tunes (every banjo player has to get to show off his/ her chops sometime!!) Included are some wry observations on life (Never Put The Banjo Down), a nod to the Carter family (I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes) and the rather paradoxical Zen Gospel Singing (Theology 101 Exam Q.1 “Discuss…”) Coolgrass are, by all accounts, a hugely entertaining live band, so keep an eye out for them, encourage bluegrass and banjo players (I’m sorry, the two things go hand in hand) by buying this CD.