For those who believe that the banjo is an instrument for bluegrass and bluegrass alone, think again. Harvey Reid's The Artistry of the 6-String Banjo concentrates on the rare six-string banjo, recording an eclectic collection of blues, ragtime, and even classical music. Scott Joplin's overly familiar "The Entertainer" is given a fresh reworking by Reid's bright banjo playing, while Bach's "Minuet in G" is delivered with a light and delicate air. He has said that good instrumentalists make their complicated fingerpicking seem easy, and he accomplishes just that. Several of these pieces come from earlier albums on which he used the six-string banjo, including the pirate-tinged "Pieces of Eight" and an old-time version of "The Cuckoo." The rocking -- yes rocking -- "Six-Shooter Stomp" has potentially created a new genre of boogie-woogie banjo, and one shouldn't miss the flamenco flavored "Andelusia Revisited." While Reid doesn't play guitar on this album, fans of his guitar work will enjoy flatpicker Dan Crary's guest spot on "Bill Baily." There's also one more bonus for banjo lovers: in case six-strings weren't enough, Reid has recorded two instrumentals, "The Gaoler's Jig" and "Sitting on Top of the World," using the 12-string banjo. Nearly half of these instrumentals were written by Reid, and they fit snugly beside the traditional material. One thing that makes him such a fascinating artist is his willingness to build an entire album around a theme, or in this instance, an instrument. The Artistry of the 6-String Banjo should fascinate banjo players and offer something bright and shiny to Reid fans.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
feat: David Surette