Alison Brown

Look Left

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Five-string banjoist Alison Brown deftly incorporates Cajun, Celtic, Caribbean, and Native American music into her progressive bluegrass sound, making for a cleanly played set that's as crisp as white sheets on a springtime clothesline. "View From Above" is a shuffling, lightly jazzed number that plays Brown's banjo off of steel pans, while the title track glides along on a cloud that's more substantive than adult contemporary, but still palatable to that audience with its tasteful soprano sax. Look Left was written as an experiment, bringing the banjo into new musical environments, so Brown's whimsical style hurdling isn't really out of place. On the contrary, it's handled with an unforced grace by all the musicians involved, so nothing ever seems like a bad fit. Wood flute adds real atmosphere to "The Red Earth," while accordion, fiddle, and even a didgeridoo all weave their way into the album's modernistic sound. Seamus Egan's uilleann pipes work particularly well on "Cara's Way/[The Little People]," which crosses a traditional reel with jammy bluegrass for something truly unique.

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