TOWN AND COUNTRY FIDDLER
In recent years, the IBMA has made an effort to reinforce the “International” part of the association’s name by reaching out to more artists overseas. There are vibrant, even if small, bluegrass scenes in places as diverse as the Czech Republic, Ireland, Japan, England, and even Brazil. On this new album by fiddler Donal Baylor, the bluegrass scene of Australia is featured front and center.
Baylor is a widely-respected fiddler in his native Australia where he’s played with Australian music veteran Slim Dusty, as well as American musician Mike Compton. On “Town And Country Fiddler,” he showcases his love of American bluegrass music with a little western swing thrown in the mix. When you listen to the first few songs on the CD, you’ll hear them played with a little bit of a different timing than what you hear in the U.S. I had this conversation with a musician friend from Canada last summer who pointed out that they play more up on their tippy toes, with a bounce to it, as opposed to American pickers who play (as she put it) “with their heel stomping in the dirt on the ‘one.’” Australians seem to have a similar beat as Canadians.
Baylor’s playing is very good with great double-stops and is backed by able musicians including a rare appearance by mandolin luthier Steve Gilchrist. Highlights include Baylor’s take on three Bill Monroe tunes, of whom he calls “the greatest composer of fiddle tunes ever.” The Monroe cuts are “Jekyll Island” and a couple that Monroe wrote, but never recorded, “Farewell To Long Hollow” and “My Father’s Footsteps.” Other standouts include a melancholy “Elzick’s Farewell” and a fired up “Kansas City Railroad Blues.” (Donal Baylor, 2 Adams Pl., Watson, ACT 2602, Australia, www.donalbaylor.com.)DH