Darol Anger

The Diary of a Fiddler

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The sixth song on Darol Anger's 1999 CD, Diary of a Fiddler, is a pleading version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," which would have been a very appropriate title for the album. This album finds Anger pairing up with other pioneering violinists like Natalie MacMaster, Stuart Duncan, Vassar Clements, Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien, and several others, on mostly improvised or hastily learned songs recorded at fiddle camps and jam sessions between late 1996 and early 1999. The sense of exploration and experimentation is pervasive throughout the album, most often resulting in two fiddlers intertwining around one another, often in harmony but occasionally in battle. In the liner notes, Anger notes that Natalie MacMaster is "like a sword dancer. I swear she makes playing the fiddle sound dangerous," and that compliment could stand for any of the musicians that accompany him on the 14 tracks. The opening track "Melt the Teakettle" offers Anger's earthy, gruff fiddle playing against MacMaster's crisp Celtic melodies, while "Working on a Building Melody" starts slowly and undefined until accompanist Matt Glaser carves out a keening, almost classically-oriented violin cry, and the whole thing breaks down to an old-fashioned back porch stomp. Fans of Anger's previous progressive bluegrass/new acoustic works like Jam or Fiddlesticks will find not only familiar themes and stylistic threads here, but also some real sparks of invention that only improvisational jamming can produce.

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