Entire jazz albums devoted to folk songs are rare, though many of the songs within Frank Macchia's CD have been recorded by jazz bands at one time or another. But Macchia succeeds because the multi-reed player puts his own stamp on these familiar melodies with imaginative charts that keep the listener guessing. A perfect example is the opening track, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," which has stops in swing, Latin, and New Orleans, all with playful solos and tight ensemble work. The cool-toned setting of "Oh! Susanna" sounds straight out of the '50s, with rich writing for reeds and brass. Perhaps the most startling piece is the fusion rendition of "The Arkansas Traveler" utilizing electric keyboards, guitar, and bass in a big, brassy, in-your-face manner. Macchia transforms "Erie Canal" into a funky vehicle for Bill Reichenbach on tuba, while vocalist Tierney Sutton is added for "Red River Valley" with Grant Geissman's jarring electric guitar providing contrast in the background. There's never a dull moment in Frank Macchia's arrangements of these well-known tunes, and there remains a wealth of traditional folk melodies that are ripe for his future experiments.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden