Backwards fiddle challenge from Casey Driessen

Casey Driessen - OogFiddler Casey Driessen has presented to the music world as something of a stylistic enigma. As a fiddler he is equally well trained in the bluegrass and old time traditions, and he has a music degree from The Berklee College Of Music.

He has toured as a solo artist and band leader, as well as a sideman. He is a member of Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet and is touring now with Darrell Scott.

Driessen’s latest CD, Oog, is scheduled for release on May 12. It offers a wealth of beautiful and fascinating music, but isn’t much help in pinning him down or boxing his sound into any neat classification. Casey handles fiddle and vocal chores, with help from Darrell Scott on guitar and pedal guitar, Viktor Krauss on bass, Brian Siskind on lap steel and synth, and Matt Chamberlain on percussion.

For a glimpse into Driessen’s musical personality, he created this video fiddle quiz for our readers…

The resulting track on Oog is a hoot. The backwards melody played in reverse takes it the first time through, with a back’ards accompaniment used throughout, duet style.

Casey also agreed to let us include samples of a couple other tracks from the CD, which we offer here, along with his comments from the liner notes.

Uncontinental Breakfast  –  Listen now:    [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/breakfast.mp3]

While teaching at Mark O’Connor’s Strings Conference I had a life changing musical experience‚Ķand those don’t come along often. One of the other instructors was Dr. M. Manjunath, a South Indian violinist. He played a solo concert, cross legged, on top of a table, improvising nonstop for 30 minutes. He took me on a ride that was one of the most beautiful and amazing performances I’ve ever witnessed, playing in ways I had not imagined possible. The next day I took a lesson with him. Soon afterwards while on the road, hungry and stuck in a hotel room one morning, I wrote this melody. Thank you Dr. M. Manjunath.

This next one may be my favorite on the CD. It’s a quirky, rocking version of O, Death, rendered here as Conversation With Death. I’ll bet I have played this track a dozen times over the past two days.

No… it’s not a grassy cut either, but don’t get your knickers in a twist. If electric instruments and drums will ruin your day, just give this one a miss.

Conversation With Death  –  Listen now:    [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/death.mp3]

We all have our notions of life beyond life and whether or not there is one at all. What we seem to agree on is that time is precious, time is short, and time is unpredictable. I used to take a few more chances with my life, feeling the invincibility of my youth. I wouldn’t say my life is any less exciting, I just choose my battles a bit more wisely. It’s funny how life experience and love will change your perspectives. I believe we are all connected, not just people, but all living things. I don’t believe that there is one true way for everyone ‚Äì geography, culture, and environment just won’t let me. My ideal afterlife is that you go wherever and experience whatever you believed in your lifetime‚Ķ.it seems only fair. These lyrics are passed down to us from Doc Boggs.

Craig Havighurst of String Theory Media created a video about the making of the CD last year when Driessen et al were in studio. It offers a nice overview of the project, in the form of a lengthy interview with Casey, with live studio footage interspersed.

There is additional audio on Casey’s MySpace page, and you can get your own copy of Oog in two week’s time. It’s a wild ride, one well worth the effort.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.