Richard Bennett

In the Wind Somewhere

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Veteran guitarist Richard Bennett takes time from his busy session duties to play with some old friends sitting in a room on In the Wind Somewhere, a relaxed, seemingly informal session that nonetheless exudes considerable firepower. Bennett is as much an arranger as he is a guitarist and singer, accompanied here by bassist Mark Schatz, mandolinist Adam Steffey, and fiddler Ron Stewart, with Blue Highway's Sean Lane helping out on tenor vocals. The program includes bluegrass, folk, and pop standards, as well as a couple of originals. Bennett's reputation is that of an instinctive perfectionist; given that this was a live-in-the-studio date, he displays why here. The music is flawlessly played, but never sacrifices warmth or depth for polish. For Bennett, they are one and the same. One of the set's highlights is the display of his considerable jazz chops on a solo instrumental of Lennon and McCartney's "Yesterday." The arrangement is influenced at once by Wes Montgomery and T-Bone Walker, wedding jazz to country blues. His surprise reading of Sting's "Fields of Gold" is chilling for its stark tenderness. With the band punctuating his plaintively sung lines, there is no drama, no nostalgia, just deep longing and reverie. Tony Rice guests on Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind." The interplay in the pair's double flatpicking extends the tune far beyond the boundary of its most familiar trappings. Bennett wrote the title track and "Georgie." The former's lyric and melody are so poetic and resonant they could have been written by Gordon Lightfoot; the band adds a high lonesome treatment to spiral out under his voice. The treatment of Kate Wolf's classic "Across the Great Divide" shows just how much Bennett reveres the song. The chunky mandolin, breezy fiddle, and flatpicked guitar fuel the vocal harmonies on the chorus and Steffey's solo is brief yet saturated in imagination and soul. The final track revises the 19th century folk song "Wayfaring Stranger," so closely associated with Ralph Stanley. The solo guitar intro moves fluidly through jazz, Celtic and Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and blues. But when the band enters, Rice joins in, and what unfolds is quite literally astonishing. At its close, a few moments of silence give way to a hidden track, an instrumental guitar duel on "Home Sweet Home." Despite the hundreds of sessions he's played on -- and his previous solo records -- Bennett reveals here that he has become a musician of the rarest kind: every track actually reveals a different aspect of a person, not merely a player. Poetic and true, In the Wind Somewhere is easily his finest work.

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