THE SPECIAL CONSENSUS
Can it really be 35 years since Special Consensus emerged as one of the best new progressive bands on the bluegrass scene? Time flies as fast as Special Consensus charter member and banjo picker Greg Cahill’s three finger rolls. Now, the band’s music and history are celebrated by the album 35.
The Chicago based Special Consensus has always merged elements of mainstream bluegrass with the blues, swing, and country to present a refreshing sound. Cahill, a bright and inventive picker, as well as a versatile vocalist, has remained its touchstone.
This new CD is enjoyable and well-conceived. Half the tracks are new recordings with the band’s current lineup: Cahill, Ryan Thomas (guitar and vocals), Rick Faris (mandolin and vocals), and David Thomas (bass and vocals). Cahill does well keeping up with these youngsters, as evidenced on his instrumental “Danny’s Dance.” Faris, Roberts, and Thomas also contribute great original songs on the CD’s first half.
The other tracks are taken from now outofprint Special Consensus albums from 1983 to 1998. It’s worthwhile to find how many superb musicians have been part of this outfit. (One outstanding example is the Chicago musician Don Stiernberg who contributed a sturdy mandolin break in 1991 to the song “Fourteen Carat Mind” and then went on to become one of the most enjoyable acoustic jazz mandolinists ever.)
The music here is consistently fine, both vocally and instrumentally. The creative emphasis on original material is noteworthy. It’s been a very fine 35 years. If you’ve never picked up a Special Consensus album, their new collection 35 is definitely the place to start. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212 www.compassrecords.com.) RDS