Dance of Life - Mandolin Celebration

Andy May
Swift River Records

1999 Walnut Valley Program

This CD is re-sequenced version of Andy’s 1986 recording of the same title, subtitled, "A Mandolin Celebration." Re-sequencing means that the original recording has been digitally re-mastered, removing noise, producing a crystal clear recording.

Andy is joined by several stellar musicians including Kenny Kosek on fiddle, David Dick on banjo, and Rudy Meeks on most of the bass tracks. The songs are traditional except for Bill Monroe’s "Bluegrass Stomp," Andy’s own "Dance of Life" and his Celtic flavored "Bay of Fundy Reel." A highlight of this collection is a vocal version of "Soldiers Joy." The tunes on this CD are performed tastefully at a cool tempo. These arrangements provide a relaxed ambient atmosphere and allow the novice picker (like me!) a chance to play along with tunes like "Bill Chatham," "Cripple Creek," and "Devils Dream" at a pace I can keep up with. My favorite is "St. Anne’s Reel." Many flat pickers have turned the bridge section of this song into a samba, a Cha Cha or one of those Caribbean things. I thoroughly enjoyed this recording and thank you Andy May for keeping "St. Anne’s Reel" a real reel.

Bluegrass Unlimited, March 1990

Dance Of Life/Bill Cheetham/ Swallowtail Jig/Soldier's Joy/ Bluegrass Stomp/Devil's Dream/St. Anne's Reel/Bay Of Fundy Reel/ Morpath Rant/Cripple Creek/Rachel.

Andy May started performing in the late '60s, playing guitar in New York City with Kenny Kosek as part of the Star Spangled String Band. Andy subsequently expanded his horizons by moving to the Amherst, Massachusetts, area where he began songwriting, playing the mandolin and jamming with Jim Heffernan. Now located in Colorado, Andy has brought together Kenny and his fiddle, Jim on dobro and banjo. David Dick on banjo, Rudi Weeks on bass, and another New Yorker, Roger Mason also on bass, for "Dance Of Life (A Mandolin Celebration)."

This release features eight traditional bluegrass tunes, jigs and reels as well as Bill Monroe's "Bluegrass Stomp" and two May originals, the title track and "Bay Of Fundy Reel."

On "Dance Of Life" which opens the cassette, Andys light, bright mandolin picking sets the lead for Kenny's swinging fiddle and the combination results in a sassy, foot-stomping, tune. You can't help but like this number! The old classic "Bill Cheetham" follows and here Andy's quick tempo is embellished by Kenny with a hot, bluesy fiddle lead. The banjo playing is also strong, but unfortunately the lack of liner notes leaves the listener guessing whether it's Jim or David doing the picking.

The Celtic-flavored "Swallowtail Jig" is next and by now it's hard to hold your seat as Andy and the boys beckon you to get up and dance. The version of "Soldier's Joy" that follows is enhanced by raspy vocals: "I am my Mamma's darling boy, I'll play a little tune called Soldier's Joy!" The immortal "Bluegrass Stomp" closes the first side. On this cut we finally get to hear the fine Dobro work of Jim Heffernan, although it's just a lick or two. Jim is one of America's best kept Dobro secrets, but Rutabaga Records is helping to spread the word. (Pick up Jim's "Dobro" - Rutabaga RR 3002 for a real treat.)

Some side two highlights Include a lightning-paced version of another mandolin number, "Devil's Dream," as well as Andy's second original "Bay Of Fundy Reel." This slower paced, methodical tune has a beautiful, timeless sound.

"Dance Of Life" is a light, enjoyable frolic through traditional mandolin standards. The musicianship is high, the original works strong and the tape is really a lot of fun.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: