Mandolin legend Herschel Sizemore may be retired from active touring, but he hasn’t stopped writing and the recording the sort of clever instrumentals that have so endeared him to the mandolin world.
His latest CD, B-Natural, has just been released. It’s a self-produced project with 12 new Sizemore compositions with Terry Baucom on banjo, Jimmy Haley on guitar, Ron Stewart on fiddle and Mike Bub on bass. Alan Bibey also adds some lead guitar and harmony mandolin parts.
The CD title comes from the lead track, a sly reference to the stylistic innovations that Herschel introduced to bluegrass mandolin some years ago. The mandolin style that Bill Monroe developed quite commonly involved playing in the key of B, but Monroe’s playing was position-based and often relied on stock licks and phrases. Sizemore found a way to play complex melodies in B, an unforgiving place for uncapoed stringed instruments, and it won has him quite a stable of admirers among his peers.
What Herschel introduced is now standard fare in the bluegrass mandolin repertoire, and it’s a sad fact that many young 8-stringers have little awareness of the straight line that runs from Herschel Sizemore through Sam Bush, Alan Bibey and Adam Steffey.
Of course, he plays comfortable in most any standard bluegrass key, and his new tunes demonstrate a variety of the breakdowns, reels and waltzes for which he is known. The sound here will be quite familiar to long-time Sizemore fans, with straightforward, no frills arrangements and crisp, clean playing all around. Here are a few audio samples:
Monroe’s Dream is one Herschel wrote a few years ago, reflecting on his old friend Bill Monroe. Big Mon was always a supporter of what Herschel was doing with teh mandolin, and Herschel has always believed it was because he wasn’t copying Monroe’s music, but making his own statement with teh instrument.
Derrington Express is dedicated to another dear friend, Charlie Derrington, formerly with Gibson in Nashville. Charlie was killed by a drunk driver almost exactly 3 years ago (8/1/06) while he was riding his motorcycle near his home.
B-Natural was produced with support from The Virginia Foundation For The Humanities. Ordering in enabled from Herschel’s web site.