Instrumental bluegrass albums have a long history, with many of the biggest names having produced at least one such record during their careers. Flatpicking guitar, which entered the bluegrass world long after banjo, fiddle, and mandolin emerged as lead instruments, has followed a similar path, with musicians ranging from Norman Blake, Clarence White, Dan Crary, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, David Grier, Cody Kilby, Steve Kaufman, and many more producing outstanding albums of instrumental bluegrass. Tyler Grant, a former National Flatpicking Guitar Champion of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kans., has emerged in recent years as one of the brightest talents on guitar, producing everything from brilliantly orchestrated guitar-contest pieces to memorable original instrumental tunes to some great instructional materials.
On his latest release Up The Neck, Grant says he wanted to produce an album focused solely on his guitar playing. That’s a big task for any guitarist, but Grant backs up his objective over 14 instrumental tunes, several of which are his compositions. For listeners interested in hearing the intricate, highly-arranged contest-tune style of guitar, Grant obliges with gorgeous renditions of “Forked Deer,” “Beaumont Rag,” and “I Don’t Love Nobody.” He stretches his musical boundaries on his broadly themed originals “Springtime Flatpicking,” “Hippie Guitar,” and “Cache La Poudre.” And, he is joined by fellow flatpicking icon Bill Nershi (who also engineered the project) for a sweet guitar duet on “President Garfield’s Hornpipe.” Infamous Stringdusters banjo ace Chris Pandolfi also sits in on a tune named in Chris’s honor.
Up The Neck is filled with inventive, well-executed flatpicking guitar music ranging from the traditional to the progressive ends of the musical spectrum. Grant is a skilled and talented player who has crafted an enjoyable and highly entertaining CD that will please not only hardcore guitar fans, but many bluegrass lovers who enjoy the instrumental side of our music. In my book, Up The Neck gets a definite thumbs up! (Grant Central Records, P.O. Box 1931, Lyons, CO 80540, www.tylergrant.org.) DJM