Will Keys

Banjo Original

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Will Keys is truly a banjo original, as the title of this album suggests. Over the years this Tennessee native has developed a two-fingered, up-picking style that is wonderfully melodic, and as the tracks on this marvelous disc attest, he not only makes his banjo ring, he makes it chime, waltz, and sing with a bell-like tone that is as clear as an Appalachian spring. Keys simply sounds like no one else on the instrument, an amazing achievement in traditional music, where tradition often translates into playing pieces in a time-honored and prescribed way. Keys manages to sound both traditional and creatively individual at the same time as he melodically winds his way through the waltzes and fiddle tunes included here, and while it is possible to single out some of these tracks ("Snake Chapman's Tune," "The Eighth of January," "Once More"), the whole album really makes a cohesive statement, each piece fitting into the overall fabric of the sequence. The rise of bluegrass and the explosive three-fingered banjo style has unfortunately muted the gentler, melodic, and modal possibilities of the five-string banjo, a situation this lovely album addresses nicely.

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