Pete Wernick

Dr. Banjo Steps Out

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Dr. Banjo really steps out on this one. Introducing flute, synthesizer, and a whole host of trippy studio effects into a bluegrass album was pretty progressive for the mid-'70s (even in an era where John Hartford and New Grass Revival were pushing the boundaries), and Pete Wernick uses the emerging technology to progress even further. Excellent players like Tim O'Brien, Andy Statman, Tony Trischka, and Russ Barenberg (to name just a few) shift the sound from retro to futuristic, often within the same song. Although the phase-shifting banjo feels a little like a gimmick after the first few times it appears, that still does not detract from the musical sparks that fly from the main collaborators. Soon after this release, Wernick and O'Brien went on to form Hot Rize, a band that pushed the edges of what was thought to be bluegrass even further out, and the glimmers of those future explorations are what make Dr. Banjo Steps Out one of those uniquely listenable historical documents.

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