Russ Barenberg is one of those guitarists whom no one but other guitarists has heard of, but whose name is held in reverence by all guitarists. Of course, he's also a very fine mandolinist. And an even better composer. It would be enough to make you sick, if his music didn't have such a sweet, nice-guy flavor to it. It's not only impressive technically, it's also impressive as an expression of personality. When at Last is his first solo album in nearly 20 years, and it consists entirely (except for one traditional French folk melody) of original compositions. He's joined by an impressive array of A-list artists with whom he's racked up IOUs over the years: fiddler Stuart Duncan, dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Viktor Krauss and others. And while you might expect a bluegrassy sound given the instrumentation, he'll surprise you: "Fat Mountain" owes more to polka-hall stomp than it does to high lonesome mountain soul, and "The Pleasant Beggar" is a very traditional-sounding Irish-style reel. Then there's that French folk tune, a sweetly melancholy number that will break your heart in that special way that only French and Québecois melodies can. Here's hoping we don't have to wait twenty years for the next album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson