Butch Waller

Golden Gate Promenade

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Golden Gate Promenade represents a rare commodity on the contemporary bluegrass scene: a straightforward instrumental outing with no progressive overtones. Mandolinist Butch Waller sidesteps David Grisman, Béla Fleck, and Tony Rice's fancy licks and odd chord patterns for honest-to-God old-fashioned bluegrass. Three pieces are borrowed from Bill Monroe's song bag and three are simply listed as traditional. Waller and his guests take these tunes and a number of originals and plow straight ahead for 50 minutes of fine picking. The title piece unleashes the album at a steady gait, allowing the banjo, guitar, and mandolin four minutes to trade leads. Waller then settles into a relaxed version of "Danny Boy," backed only by two guitars and a bass. The album continues by alternating between upbeat pieces and waltzes with a bit of the blues thrown in for good measure. "Bluegrass Stomp" qualifies as one of the most charged pieces, while "Fade Love" succeeds as one of the most poignant. Waller is joined by a number of well-known players, including banjoist Keith Little, guitarist Jim Nunally, and bassist Laurie Lewis. While the setups and players change from instrumental to instrumental, the overall effort sounds like one piece. For anyone addicted to the charged-up sound of traditional bluegrass, Golden Gate Promenade will fit the bill.

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