This intriguing album, which features contemporary banjo players Joe Ayers, Clarke Buehling, Bobby Winans, Bob Flesher, Bob Carlin, and Tony Trischka employing drop-thumb frailing techniques on gourd and hoop banjos in replication of the ante bellum minstrel style, somehow seems to fall short of what it might have been. Some of these performances are surprisingly lifeless and perhaps a bit too studied to really catch fire. Then there's the content problem of the minstrel canon itself, which was built on whites in blackface trying to mimic black life and attitudes, and in that context, songs like "Oh, I'se So Wicked," as performed here by Bob Flesher, are layered with subliminal cultural baggage and cruel ironies that are difficult to set aside even all these years later. Still, the minstrel era marks a period in the south when African approaches to rhythm and arrangement collided and eventually merged with European ones, and in what might be the largest irony, black musicians appropriated many of the minstrel tunes, which were in themselves parodies of black culture, into their own milieu, giving these songs another layer of the onion. All of this is more weight than this set is really intended to bear. The tunes are pleasant enough sounding on the surface, the banjo tones are round and gentle, and if one can set aside the ugly racial problems in America that really drove the minstrel phenomenon, then this set is a partial step toward cultural realignment.