In the 1950s, college students who were caught up in the folk boom attended gatherings where they played acoustic instruments and sang. These "hootenannies" were informal and non-professional. Guitarist David Grier decided to have his own little get together with multiple instrumentalists Tim O'Brien and Dirk Powell on Hootenanny. Recorded over a four day period, this album has the loose feel of a few friends hanging out and doing their own thing. The only difference here is that these musicians are professionals, and even when they're just fooling around, they sound great. A lot of room is left on cuts like "Have You Ever Been to England" for the individual players to cut loose and show off their instrumental skill. Grier, as always, is an endlessly inventive and tasteful soloist, and he seems comfortable whether playing blues as in "Lonnie and Maybelle" or jazz in "Ragtime Annie." As on his previous albums, he shares solo space equally with his guests. A multitude of instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, and accordion, are utilized on different tracks to create a rich texture within the context of traditional music. There are a couple of throwaway vocals by O'Brien, one -- "Lonnie and Maybelle" -- that includes scat singing. The tunes penned by Grier, "Red Haired Boy" and "Cascade," fit comfortably with the traditional ones like "Lonesome Road Blues." Hootenanny's approach is more casual, off-the-cuff, than his previous recordings for Rounder, and perhaps that is why it was released on his own label, Dreadnought. Fans of Grier, Powell, and O'Brien should enjoy this set, as should any of lover of good, acoustic music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.