Monday, February 1, 2010

In review--Fiddling Around

Alex Hargreaves
Adventure Music
Release date: 2-16-2010

Often when an extremely talent young musician comes on the scene, someone drags out a comparison to Mozart (one of the most famous child prodigies of all time). However, we forget that wunderkind types have always existed though they are labeled “Indigo” and “Crystal” children these days. These virtuosic youth take our breath away with their incredible talents and in some cases, maturity beyond their years.

Fiddler-violinist Alex Hargreaves, still in his teens, has already astounded renowned Americana musicians such as Mike Marshall (who produced Hargreaves debut Prelude), Darol Anger (appears as a guest musician) and David Grisman to name three. Hargreaves comes off as a fireball, playing those rousing staccato passages as well as, the more feeling lyrical ones. And he possesses the musical emotional maturity of a musician twice and maybe three times his age (17). He plays with confidence and poise and he composes pieces that recall the wunderkind musicians of Finland and other Scandinavian countries—think Frigg, or Annborg Lien. And if you want to stick in the Americas, think Natalie MacMaster of Nova Scotia.

Hargreaves mixes it up on Prelude with what I’m going to coin as “bluegrass chamber”, swing, jazz and even a soulful Stevie Wonder cover, Summer Soft which ends the recording. Many of the tunes shift between slow lyrical passages and in some cases, they venture into hoe-down territory. The opener, Shasta begins with Marshall’s lilting mandolin and then Hargreaves fiery fiddle rearranges the piece-this piece in particular recalls the crooked road compositions of Finland’s JPP. The following tune, Big Hook flies right off of the disc—a huge burst of energy.

The musicians slow it down and catch their breath on the Pat Matheny cover, April Joy then they step it up a notch and recall French swing on There Will Be Another You/Not You Again in which Hargreaves brings out his St├Ęphane Grappelli chops. Guitarist Grant Gordy also swings like crazy. Lonesome Clapper breaks out into a bluesy-grass jam session you don’t want to miss with another wunderkind musician, bassist Paul Kowert and banjo player Noam Pikelny trading off solos with Hargreaves.

This delightful recording with its traditional Americana that mirrors Nordic fiddling too travels well on a crooked road filled with lots of surprises and a few musical jolts. And like a luxurious hot bath, immersing yourself in this collection of songs has an invigorating, yet relaxing effect.

Adventure Music

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