At 17 years of age, Alex Hargreaves will easily be touted as the next young fiddle champion, after coming out of the Mark O'Connor music camp and being endorsed by heavyweights like Darol Anger and David Grisman. In the hokey-pokey world of crossover bluegrass, he certainly has all the chops and inventiveness to impress those placing image over substance. Thing is, he's impressive musically, as well, whether playing fast or midtempo, or interpreting a few standards, and he has written some catchy tunes that are sure to please his crowd of folk, country, or hot-club swing constituents. With no drummer, the brilliant mandolinist Mike Marshall is on most of these tracks, and banjo player Noam Pikelny shows up for another three; Hargreaves has able foils to improvise with and feed off of, while guitarist Grant Gordy and bassist Paul Kowert are capable partners who keep up with the violinist during every fleet step. Changing gears from bluesy to more upbeat on "Lost in Lunel," cooking up the hard and fast "Lonesome Clapper," or swinging on the jam "Big Hook," all alongside Marshall and Pikelny, Hargreaves seems comfortable at any speed. He's a bit more quaint and lucid on the timeless sound of Pat Metheny's "April Joy," while the circular motion of the outstanding opener "Shasta," accompanied by guest Béla Fleck on banjo, shows his pretty side in a rural waltz arena. Wes Montgomery's "Road Song" is chopped up, derailed in light funk from the original bossa swing, while "There Will Never Be Another You" is done in the main very faithfully until excitable chops supersede musicality, with John Scofield's "Not You Again" inserted as a tag. The closer, Stevie Wonder's obscure "Summer Soft" seems out of place, but is played in a bluesy context, pleasant but not overwhelming. Clearly an artist with a lot to learn and chops to burn, it will be interesting to see which path Alex Hargreaves chooses for future projects, as his pure, raw talent is undeniable.
by Michael G. Nastos