Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Outbound

While big label budgets enable the banjo king to import a ton of talent, including John Medeski, Adrian Belew, Shawn Colvin and even a Tuvan throat singer, commercial demands engulf Fleck's essentially Appalachian, bluegrass spirit. The funky call and response dialogue of "Scratch & Sniff" and elegant ballads like "Lover's Leap" and the pretty "Shuba Yatra" show the wonderful music that all these guys can create, as long as they keep things simple. That's a difficult balance to sustain with such a big, floating cast; there's a sense that the magic and grace of Fleck's music is becoming lost as its breathing spirit is suffocated by the pressure of big budget values. (Sony)