Darol Anger's Republic of Strings

Generation Nation

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Musical purists are always a tiresome sort, fussing about whether people are using the Galax lick appropriately in "Rockingham Cindy" or whether they're interpolating non-regional verses into the "true" version of some obscure Child ballad. But self-conscious fusioneers can be pretty annoying as well, especially if they put more emphasis on making a clever or self-consciously multicultural statement than on playing tunes that are fun to listen to. Fiddler Darol Anger is one of the most respected acoustic music fusioneers in the business, having established his reputation early as a member of the David Grisman Quintet in the 1970s, and he's the best type of fusioneer: one who puts the tune and the listener ahead of his own cleverness. Teaming up with veteran newgrass guitarist Scott Nygaard, the young cellist Rushad Eggleston, and an equally young five-string fiddler named Brittany Haas, Anger has now made two albums under the Republic of Strings rubric. The second, Generation Nation, finds the quartet bringing in multiple guest singers and instrumentalists, with some stunning (and some slightly disappointing) results. On the stunning side is an amazingly effective acoustic take on the soul classic "Chain of Fools," featuring singer Chris Webster and a smart, smoldering string arrangement. There's also a brilliant two-part medley that juxtaposes Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'" with an obscure fiddle tune called "Yellow Barber." "The Seagull" is rhythmically weird but melodically gorgeous, and that track goes along swimmingly until it segues into "The Bay Day," on which Eggleston's out of tune cello lends a slightly sour note to the proceedings. The last half of the album is less lively and generally less compelling than the first, but everything here is worth hearing. Recommended.

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