KANU Flint Hills Special --- June 1994
Crary Picks a Winner
Dan Crary is rightly acclaimed as one of the great flatpicking guitarists, and he shows why in his stunning new CD, "Jammed If I Do", with special guest pickers such as Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice and Beppe Gambetta, along with his California bandmates Byron Berline, John Hickman and John Moore.
For this Sugar Hill release. Dan gives each guitarist a guest spot, preceded by a fascinating snippet of conversation with each of these great pickers. There's a wealth of traditional standards, such as Dan teaming with Doc on a medley of Whistlin' Rufus and Ragtime Annie. Speaking of medleys, Dan, as he's often done, has an extended "tribute" medley, this time to Don Reno, as well as a long set of Irish tunes. The sound quality is superb, the playing inventive and lyrical, and the material diverse enough to sustain interest in this, one of the best CD's of the year.
Guitar Shop 4/95
PERFORMANCE: Bluegrass brilliance
GUITARS: Taylor "Dan Crary" Signature 6-string acoustic and Taylor 12-string
Dan Crary is the brightest star to emerge in the traditional-style flatpicking lineage that includes Clarence White, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. While Tony Rice, Russ Barenberg, and others may be equally facile in technique and musicality, each has journeyed into jazz, New Age, and other non-traditional forms. This makes for interesting listening, but it also makes Mr. Crary the clear choice to carry the scepter of traditional bluegrass and folk styles. Whether it’s rags, fiddle tunes, breakdowns, or Irish hornpipes, Crary shines brilliantly on all with inventive arranging, big sound, and virile execution. Backed by impeccable sidemen (including his two longtime partners, banjoist John Hickman and violinist Byron Berline), Crary delivers break after break, and tune after tune of supercharged bluegrass music. No jazz, no new age-just great pickin’. a feature of this record is Crary’s "friends" approach-duets with other flatpicking noterati, including Norman Blake, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, and Beppe Gambetta. For me, though, the highlights remain the tunes by just Dan and the boys, such as "St. Anne’s Reel" (a nice surprise with the modulation to the relative minor), "B&B Rag" (swingin’ bluegrass riffs, ripe for copping by guitarists into jazz, country, or bluegrass), "Tribute to Don Reno" (a straight-ahead ride via tunes penned by the legendary banjoist/flatpicker), and the alternately haunting and jaunty "Irish Tune Suite" (the Celtic gamut, all delivered with shimmering tone). Also outstanding is John Moore’s mandolin work. Listen to Jammed along with Crary’s landmark LP Lady’s Fancy, released a decade earlier, for a complete education in virtuoso bluegrass flatpicking, all presented in an authentic setting.
Bluegrass Now April 25, 1996
|JAMMED IF I DO |
Sugar Hill Records (SH-CD 3:24)
P.O. Box 55300
Durham, NC 21717-5300
Playing time: 52:20
St. Anne's Reed
Conversation with Doc Watson
Whistlin' Rufus/Ragtime Annie (with Watson)
Conversation with Tony Rice
Cattle in the Cane (with Rice)
Conversation with Beppe Gambetta
Foggy Mountain Special (with Gambetta)
Tribute to Don Reno
Home Sweet Home
Green Mountain Hop
Follow the Leader
Conversation with Norman Blake
Uncle Herman's Hornpipe (with Blake)
Irish Tune Suite
Garrai Na Bhfeileoig
Old Hag You Have Killed Me
|WARNING: Those with high blood pressure must take adequate precautions when listening to this CD. It could send your BP soaring with its fast, clean, and HOT jamming tunes. |
If the opening cut of "St. Anne's Reel" doesn't abruptly snag your attention, forcing you to stop whatever you're doing and listen intently, you're either asleep or you just don't like guitars. The tune is quick and lively, and arranged with just a bit of a variation in places. It primes the pump beautifully for what's to come on the rest of the latest Dan Crary release.
Although the Crary name is enough to give the listener an idea of the calibre of guitar work involved on this release, you have to look at the overall picture in order to truly appreciate Jammed If I Do--imagine Crary, Byron Berline, John Moore, John Hickman, Bill Bryson and Dennis Caplinger immersed in a hot jam in Crary's living room on a warm summer night. As the title implies, that's what much of this CD is about. Add the likes of legendary superstars Doc Watson, Tony Rice and Norman Blake, plus Italian newcomer Beppe Gambetta (who is making a huge splash in American blue-grass), and you've got almost an hour of phenomenal acoustic music. Each of the four guest guitarists shares one tune with Crary on this project, creating an album that virtually glows with skill, energy and impeccable good taste.
Having said all that, and taking absolutely nothing away from the guest musicians who truly shine on this CD, the guitar duets with Watson, Rice, Blake and Gambetta are al-most a welcome break from the intense pace of the album. With only the two guitars trading licks and breaks, each of these 4 tunes is perfect in execution and arrange-ment. And if you haven't yet heard Beppe Ganibetta, listen to "Foggy Mountain Special" and see how long you can keep your feet and your head still. The energy he brings to this bouncy, bluesy, rockabilly tune is irresistible.
Many of the numbers are over 4 minutes long and ignite with Caplinger's super-clean banjo licks, Moore's sparkling and flawless mandolin breaks, Hickman's hard-driving banjo work and Berline's championship fiddle playing.
For those who enjoy Irish music, the Irish medley offers over 6 minutes of tunes, both fast and slow. The liner notes seem to indicate that Crary is the only musician on these cuts, but the sound he produces makes one wonder if there isn't a second guitar somewhere adding to the fullness of the songs. The quality of the sound is distinctly Irish, drone notes and all, plus a ringing. almost tinny sustain to the notes that sounds a bit like a harpsichord in places.
While each and every song on this CD is definitely a keeper, there are two things about this release that bothered me. One is the "Conversation with ..." cuts where Crary chats briefly with each of his guests before launching into their tune together. The com-ments were just a little too cute and staged for my taste. For example, he asks Rice to please make a mistake for once, and when Gambetta's answer to a Crary query comes back in Italian, Dan replies, "Yes, I see what you mean." The other thing to watch for is that the bass is somewhat distracting on several of the cuts, and I'm not sure why. Maybe an acoustic bass would have worked better on an album of this type. as I often found myself humming along with the bass line instead of the melody.
This is an exciting. energetic and enjoy-able album, and a must for anyone whose preference is guitar lead work. It goes with-out saying that all of the guitar work is superb, but the added talents of Berline, Moore, Hickman and Caplinger are the icing on the cake, making this the album of choice for anyone who appreciates good hot blue-grass jamming. And I give the album extra points for the title, too.
Bluegrass Music News Fall 1994
|Jammed If I Do |
Jammed If I Do - Dan Crary (Sugar Hill, SH-CD-3824) Available from Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 55300, Durham, North Carolina 27717-5300.
Personnel: Dan Crary- guitar / Doc Watson - guitar / Tony Rice - guitar / Nor-man Blake - guitar / Beppe Gambetta - guitar / Dennis Caplinger - banjo / John Hickman - banjo / Bryon Berline - fid-dle / John Moore - mandolin & bass /Bill Bryerson - bass.
St. Anne's Reel / Conversation With Doc Watson / Medley (Whistlin' Rufus / Ragtime Annie) / Banjo Signal / Conversation With Tony Rice / Cattle In The Cane / Twin Reel / Conversation With Beppe Gambetta / Foggy Mountain Special / Tribute To Don Reno (Remington Ride / Home Sweet Home / Green Mountain Hop / Follow The Leader/ Conversa-tion With Norman Blake / Uncle Herman's Hornpipe / Irish Tune Suite (Port Mhuineachain / Nora Crionna / Garrai Na Bhfeileoig / Old Hag / Old Hag Have You Killed Me / The Session) Durgang's Hornpipe
|Dan Crary is often viewed as a major proponent of the "hot-licks' faction of bluegrass. Iii reality. he's a superb blue-grass orchestrator who possesses the ability to gather and interact with play-ers who rate among the best in the genre." His most recent effort, Jammed If 1 Do, is a work which commands at-tention with an instrumental ferocity that stands unmatched by anyone in re-cent memory. |
Crary is joined in this project by his longtime associates Byron Berline on fiddle, and banjoist John Hickman. But added to the mix are contributions by a collection of high profile guitarists who include: Doc Watson, Norman Blake and Tony Rice. The material tends to be rather standard fare with an emphasis toward the performance itself. Thus, for example, the version of "St. Anne's Reel" becomes more of an exercise of melodic improvisation that a standard presentation of the fiddle tune itself. Crary is the focal point of the mix, but he creates room for Berline and compa-ny to present their ideas which, in turn gives the guitar more space to impro-vise with. This particular tune also illus-tiates the forceful method that has become synonymous with Dan Crary's sound.
The guest segments are handled in much the same manner. Each player is allowed to strut their stuff which allows Crary to develop his base. Guitar play-ers of this level never seem to ciash with each other despite their differing styles. But each player maintains their particular musical identity nonetheless.
Rice and Crary begin on the same plane with "Cattle In the Cane" before Tony begins to space out with the medium runs that were familiar from his "New Acoustic Music" days. Crary responds with crosspicking heavy solos spiced with chordal bursts before entering into the duet finale. In contrast, Watson and Blake remain closer to the melody for their selections which allows Crary to wander with his rapid signature riffs.
Crary's duet with Watson provides some interesting harmonic shifts on Ragtime Anne" while his session with Blake is a little more conventionally structured.
Like it or not, Dan Crary is an im-posing guitarist whose abilities seem to blossom with those around him. Jammed If I Do places Crary in situa-tions which allow him to showcase his improvisational talents with ensembles capable of holding the show together when required. Crary is a player whose concepts of rhythm are spliced with his solo lines. Thus, he's apt to inject some melodic ideas in his rhythm perfor-mance and vise-versa.
What I could have done without is the interview snippets Crary presents with each guest guitarist. They were obviously meant to be a joke, but they simply get in the way of the music. Crary's good enough to bypass these witticisms, but they'll never stop getting in the way.
Jammed If I Do might conjure up old memories of guitar summits in Winfield, hut it's also a lot of guitaring to di-gest. Crary doesn't hold 'nuch back on this one which might signal overkill for some. However, for fans of bluegrass solo guitar. the licks come through fast and clean.
the color green
Whenever I come to Greenville, I am always struck by how frenetic it is. "Rushing Toward Red," I call it, the tendency to put your life on the line to get wherever you are going a few minutes or a few seconds early. Greenville is not that frenetic, of course, compared to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York, places I have also lived, but it is frenetic; and, by the time I get home, I am always ready to watch "Koyaanisqatsi" again in slow motion.
Or, listen to the music of artists like Dan Crary. Listening to good bluegrass music is the aural equivalent, for me, of sticking my feet in a mountain stream in the summer, looking up at the stars the way they were intended to be seen without any other lights around, and watching the mountains trade in their green sarongs for colorful sweaters in the fall. There is a timelessness to bluegrass music which reassures me that: this is the way it once was, and this is the way it still is, for some people.
Dan Crary, who has been around the mountain, so to speak, is one of the preeminent bluegrass artists recording today. He influenced an entire generation of musicians by being the first to feature classic fiddle tunes on the guitar; and all of his recording, are notable for their, as one critic said, "...unquenchable musicality, fertile creativity, and dizzying tech-nique."
Most of "Deacon Dan" Crary's recordings have been for Sugar Hill, with one notable exception being Lady's Fancy, put out by Rounder.
Jammed If I Will is more of a collaborative than a solo effort, on which Deacon Dan sits down and picks out a few tunes with the likes of Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Norman Blake, and Beppe Gambetta. Cuts include a variety of traditional tunes, and a number of "Conversations" with Crary's guest guitarists, e.g., "Conversations with Doc Watson."
As is typical of most, if not all, Sugar Hill recordings, the sound quality is excellent: clean, crisp, and well balanced. Granted, recording music of this type may not be as demanding as recording say, orchestral music; but that takes nothing away from the engineers at Sugar Hill, who are experts in the lush field of bluegrass music.
So, the next time you are in a traffic jam on 291 or Haywood Road and find yourself Rushing Toward Red, stick Jammed If I Will in your CD player. Or, if you don't have a CD player in your car, remind yourself that each summer tomatoes grow red and sweet in their own good time, and taste as good as, or better than, they did the year before.
Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine
Dan Crary has been in the front ranks of bluegrass flatpickers since the early 1970s. And, as this latest recording demonstrates, he keeps getting better. Crary is a clean, smooth, inventive player who can take traditional tunes like "St. Anne's Reel" on strange journeys without getting lost in space. He has a pen-chant for banjo tunes ("Foggy Moun-tain Special," "Banjo Signal") and explosive 16th note left-hand runs ("Twin Reel"), but rarely simply in-dulges himself in musical showboating. Backed up on most of the tunes by fiddler Byron Berline, banjoist John Hickman and other fine players. Crary devotes four cuts to duets with other stellar guitarists - Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice and Ital-ian player Beppe Gambetta. Some of the snippets of conversation that pre-cede each of these are a bit contrived, but the musical pairings arc entirely natural.
Despite the wide differences among his guests, Crarv fits easily with each -- sticking close to the melody with Watson ("Whistlin' Rufus/Ragtime Annie") and Blake ("Uncle Herman's Hornpipe"), ven-turing further afield with Rice ("Cattle in the Cane") and rocking out with Beppe Gambetta ("Foggy Moun-tain Special"). The album's tour de force, however, is the unaccompanied "Irish Tune Suite," on which Crarv turns his guitar into a virtual orchestra with lush, ringing tone, crashing chords and sure-fingered, ornamented melodies. Amazing.
Los Angeles Times
Crary Unleashes His Prowess
"Jammed if I Do"
For a quarterback, it's fourth and goal and no time left on the clock. For a stage actor, it's playing King Lear. For a folk guitarist, the ultimate challenge may be going one-on-one in a duet with Doc Watson.
Dan Crary accepts that challenge on the seventh solo album of his career, with results that are musically rewarding, but also instructive about the approach that has won the Fullerton-based Crary plaudits as a leading player in the world of traditional folk and bluegrass music.
He teams with Watson, the definitive acoustic player from North Carolina, on "Whistlin' Rufus," a jaunty, fast-flowing song on an all-instrumental album weighted toward light moods and lightning musicianship.
Watson's playing is fleet but unhurried, each note given space, definition and a firm voicing, no matter how fast it registers. Set against such technique, almost anything will be open to criticism.
But the undaunted Crary lets fly with what he has--and we do mean fly. His light, coursing style calls to mind the flickering of hummingbird wings or the glistening flow of a fast-moving stream (the blurred double-image of a pick-wielding Crary on the CD cover is an apt visual metaphor for his musical style)
Next to Watson's unerring balance, Crary does sound a bit hurried for an instant or two during "Whistlin' Rufus." But there isn't much else to quibble with over the course of an album that includes three other duets with players (Tony Rice, Norman Blake and Beppe Gambetta); many joyful picking fests featuring members of Crary's band, California, and an amazing solo suite of traditional Irish tunes.
Traditional bluegrass is often defined by speed and headlong drive, but Crary, for all his mastery of speed, is more interested in dancing nimbly than plowing forward in linear fashion.
The band pieces are all larks, as the players get caught up in the gaiety of festive dance music. Fiddler Byron Berline, mandolin player John Moore and John Hickman or Dennis Caplinger on banjo come off as the merriest band this side of Sherwood Forest.
The middle section of "Twin Reel" is particularly delightful, as Crary, Moore and Caplinger tumble through intricate variations climaxing in a powerful, cresting swell. It's all a far cry from Crary's last solo album, "Thundera-tion!" which went for darker hues and progressive-New Agey stylings.
Crary's duet with Rice on "Cattle in the Cane" provides one restless, unsettled interlude (Rice's woody tone contrasts with Crary's almost metallic, ringing sound).
Joined by Gambetta, the Italian player whose touch is also quite light, Crary adjusts on "Foggy Mountain Special" by putting some extra sting and bluesy swing into his own playing.
"Irish Tune Suite" probes ghostly mysteries and heights of Celtic lyricism, then hurtles down the home stretch. Everything else is merriment in which the uncommon care and craft exerted by expert players yields springy, carefree music.
Consequently, "Jammed If I Do" should bring good cheer to almost anyone who hears it, except perhaps for those few serious guitar players who forget to set aside their competitive instincts and find themselves wondering how they'd fare going one on one with Dan Crary.
Bluegrass Unlimited 3/95
Sugar Hill SH-CD-3824 (compact disc)
St. Anne’s Reel/B&B Rag/Conversation With Doc Watson/Whistlin’ Rufus-Ragtime Annie/ Banjo Signal/Conversation With Tony Rice/ Cattle In The Cane/Twin Reel/Conversation With Beppe Gambetta/Foggy Mountain Spe- cial/Tribute To Don Reno/conversation With Norman Blake/Uncle Herman’s Hornpipe/Irish Tune Suite/Durang’s Hornpipe.
Dan Crary is back, with another guitar-laden extravaganza. Like his two previous recordings, "Take A Step Over" and "Guitar" (both on Sugar Hill), Crary offers an assortment of carefully-selected standards a musical tribute (this time to Don Reno) and a little something of his own. "Jammed If I Do" also features guest appearances from four more guitar greats, including Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Norman Blake, and Beppe Gambetta.
The album opens with "St. Anne’s Reel" and Byron Berline’s "B&B Rag," sparklingly played by Crary, Berline and the entire supporting cast, including John Moore (mandolin, bass), John Hickman (banjo), Bill Bryson (bass) and Dennis Caplinger (banjo). Next comes the guest spot with Doc Watson, on "Whistling Rufus" and "Ragtime Annie." All of these cameo duets are preceded by a half-minute or so of somewhat stilted conversation between the two participants. This tends to get tedious after repeated listenings, but that’s a rather small quibble with an otherwise wonderful album.
The backup band is re-convened for a stellar rendition of Don Reno’s "Banjo Signal," a precursor of the four-tune Reno medley to come. Tony Rice is next. He and Crary both display a light touch and particular sensitivity to each others playing as they weave a delicate web from "Cattle In The Cane." Crary gets together with Italian guitarist Beppe Gambetta for a rollicking romp through "Foggy Mountain Special," followed by the aforementioned Reno medley.
A duet with Norman Blake on "Uncle Herman’s Hornpipe" features not only some very supple and fluid playing, but the snappiest snippet of opening dialogue. the album closes with Crary’s solo medley of Irish fiddle tunes played on 12-string guitar and then back to the six-string for "Durang’s Hornpipe" with the full band.
As usual with Crary, the arrangements here are interesting, the picking hot and the whole sound crisp and tight. He has been making good sounding albums on his own, with his band California and its predecessor "Berline,Crary, Hickman" for a long time and "Jammed If I Do" is no exception. His playing is lively, inventive and his highly recognizable style, the calling card of all great flatpickers, is clean and mature-sounding. For flatpicked guitar aficionados, this one’s a treat! (Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 55300, Durham, NC 27717)
WVA Occasional 7/94
Dan Crary, Jammed If I Do, (Sugar Hill Records) CD, 15 selections)
What can you say about Dan Crary that hasn't already been said? Here's a master of the flatpick guitar whose music is absolutely flawless. Jammed If I Do has a unique approach, though. As though his own flatpicking were not enough, Dan teams with guest guitarists Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Norman Blake and Beppe Gambetta, all masters of the guitar themselves. The result is mind-blowing music. And on top of all that before each guest does his guitar wizardry with Dan, Dan has a short "conversation" with him about the piece they are about to play.
Four cuts make this album an absolute must for folks who like twin guitar magic: "Whistlin' Rufus/Ragtime Anne" with Doc Watson; "Cattle in the Cane" with Tony Rice; "Foggy Mountain Special" with Beppe Gambetta; and "Uncle Herman's Hornpipe" with Norman Blake. These guys trading guitar licks with Dan is enough to make the price of this album worthwhile.
But more than just that, you also get seven other cuts that feature Dan Crary and his band, California. There's an eight minute tribute to Don Reno. The full band plays "Remington Ride," "Home Sweet Home," "Green Mountain Hop," and "Follow the Leader." There's also an outstanding six-minute Irish tune suite.
"Wow" is too mundane for this album and all the other adjectives have been used up. All I can say is, get it. Dan Crary, Sugar Hill Records, Inc., P.O. Box 55300 Durham, NC 27717-5300