Russ Barenberg When At Last

Russ Barenberg When At Last
Some instrumentalists are so skilled the pictures they’re able to paint speak volumes and Barenberg is one of those artists — you can see smoke curling from a cabin’s chimney in the quiet of an early morning, the sun dancing on the fast-moving surface of a swollen creek. No spring chicken in bluegrass circles, Barenberg sits atop an impressive catalogue built upon his uniquely melodic flat-picking style, yet this is his first solo record in 19 years. Should all slow gestation periods yield such magnificence! Beyond technically astute, the opening strains of the rambunctious "Little Monk” reveal an inner joy that goes a long way to defining the artist’s effervescent personality. As any team player would readily admit, this release is as much about the synergistic effect of solid players like Stuart Duncan and Ruthie Dornfield, whose fiddles are a key element of each composition. Mix in Jerry Douglas on dobro and a rhythm section of Viktor Krauss and Kenny Malone, and the band become other-worldly, if not untouchable. From the strongly Celtic-tinged "The Pleasant Beggar” to the rollicking "Redbird in the Willows/The Lakes,” this release is a picker’s delight. Given that ten of the album’s 11 tracks are Barenberg originals, he clearly hasn’t been wasting time. This is truly awe-inspiring. (Compass)