All posts tagged: Compass Records

Saturday Soundtrack: Matt Flinner

Matt Flinner is the top-shelf mandolinist and composer not enough people know. At least not in the way that music fans know that force of nature Chris Thile, or the Energizer Bunny clone Sam Bush, or the genre-bending trail-blazer David Grisman. But musicians have long been aware of this quiet master, who, in the words of the Associated Press, “blurs the lines between jazz and bluegrass, traditional and avant-garde” with the best of them. Flinner’s website bio showcases just how in-demand he is as a musician. “Multi-instrumentalist Matt Flinner has made a career out of playing acoustic music in new ways. Starting out as a banjo prodigy who was playing bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens, Flinner later took up the mandolin, won the National Banjo Contest at Winfield Kansas in 1990, and took the mandolin award there the following year. Since then, he has become recognized as one of the premiere mandolinists as well as one of the finest new acoustic/roots music composers today. He has toured and recorded with a wide variety …

Best bluegrass of 2013

This year brought us some very good bluegrass music – much of it coming out of Alison Brown’s Compass Records in Nashville. In looking at the different albums that came to my attention in 2013, three of my top five bluegrass releases of the year came from this eclectic roots music label which has been stretching boundaries and introducing the world to exciting new artists for almost two decades. First up in the More to Come… “Best of Bluegrass 2013” list is the wonderful Claire Lynch and her Dear Sister project (and not just because she signed my CD cover).  This is a great group of songs that include tunes I began writing about almost two years ago.  The title track comes from letters written before the Civil War battle of Stones River – fought near my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I’ll Be Alright Tomorrow is a new working of the Osborne Brothers classic, that sounds just right in the hands of the newly minted 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year. …

Acoustic Music Old and New

Airline travel has its occasional benefits. Earlier this week I had a trip to Boston booked on Jet Blue Airlines.  When I sat down in the seat, I glanced at the arm rest and thought, “Hot dog – Jet Blue is the airline with free XM radio!”  I whipped out my ear buds and settled in for 90 minutes of the XM station Bluegrass Junction. I love to listen to my own iPod playlist, but it also great fun to settle in to an airline seat or a rental car to catch XM radio’s bluegrass station.  Every time that happens I always end up hearing some great new music, and my Boston trip was no exception. On one leg of the trip, the station was featuring one of its staples:  a program entitled Track By Track where the DJ plays a full album by a featured artist who provides commentary along the way.  This week’s show featured the new Compass Records album Somewhere South of Crazy by the Southern songbird Dale Ann Bradley. Now I’ve …

Matt Flinner’s Music du Jour Satisfies

The Matt Flinner Trio’s Music du Jour is another in a string of strong new releases this year from Alison Brown’s Compass Records.    Flinner is one of the country’s top mandolin players, heard in recent years with David Grier and super bassist Todd Phillips as well as with Missy Raines and the New Hip. In 2006, Flinner’s trio (Finner on mandolin, Eric Thorin on bass, and Ross Martin on guitar) began to perform what they termed “Music du Jour” tours.  Each band member agreed to write new music to be performed that evening.  The only rule:  the music be started, completed, and performed all in one day.  I’ll let the website Jazz News pick it up from there: The players continued with their daily musical challenge, giving birth to the concept of the “Music du Jour” tours and later the Music du Jour album (out now on Compass Records). Between Flinner, Ross, and Thorin, over sixty new tunes were composed during three western U.S. tours, and in December 2008 the trio committed the twelve best to …

Double Play with Liz Carroll and John Doyle: CD review

John Doyle is — to my ear — about the best rhythm player in roots music today.  Ever since first hearing him as the original guitarist with the Irish super-band Solas, I’ve been taken with the mixture of power and musicianship in his playing. In recent years, Doyle has been playing in a duo with Fiddler Liz Carroll, and they just released a new CD in March on Compass Records.   As promised last week, I’m highlighting several new releases from Compass in the hopes of encouraging others to take a look at this label’s varied offerings from a talented group of artists. Double Play is the second release from the Carroll/Doyle duo.  The CD begins with a medley of two Carroll tunes, The Chandelier and Anne Lacey’s.  Liz Carroll is not content to simply play traditional tunes, but she’s quite a composer of new Irish music.  The interplay between the major key of The Chandelier and the minor tones of Anne Lacey’s makes for a great pairing. Doyle’s singing is strong on tunes such as …

Compass Records artists shine at MerleFest

I know that when I travel to MerleFest, I’d better take along some spending money for CDs.  The MerleFest Mall includes what I’ve heard described as “the world’s best Americana music store” and I wouldn’t disagree. This year’s store was sponsored by Compass Records, which was appropriate since so many of their artists were playing at the festival.  Compass is a label that over the past 10-12 years has grown to be one of the best in Americana and roots music.  Their website tells the background story: “Co-founded in 1994 by musicians Alison Brown and Garry West, Compass is a new breed of roots-music label: eclectic, sophisticated, and artist-friendly. Called “one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade” by Billboard Magazine, Compass Records has provided a thriving haven of creativity for artists and a reliable beacon of quality for music fans. Its 2006 acquisition of the Green Linnet catalog and the 2008 acquisition of the seminal Mulligan Records label has made Compass the place to go for Celtic and roots music.“ Brown is …

Missy Raines Brings New Hip to IMT

My colleague John and I were among a small but appreciative audience to hear Missy Raines and The New Hip at the weekly Monday night concert of the Institute of Musical Traditions.   The band features Raines’ energetic bass lines as the foundation for jazzgrass and acoustic music, capped with some terrific solo work by a group of young Nashville-based musicians. Instrumentals are the core of this band’s work, and they played most of the selections from Inside Out, their new CD on Alison Brown’s Compass Records.  The title track, Duke of Paducah, and a reworked Angeline the Baker entitled simply Angeline are among the highlights.   All the musicians were top notch, but Michael Witcher on dobro stood out throughout the evening.  Multi-instrumentalist Ethan Ballinger looks to be all of 16, but played beyond his years.  The band also broke in a new guitarist (on his second gig and so new he’s not listed on the web site) who carefully studied the chord charts but didn’t miss a beat.  At the end of a satisfying night …