Bertolf Lentink, who simply goes by the name Bertolf, is a Dutch singer and guitarist whose appreciation for bluegrass was spawned at an early age. His early influences included Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, and, perhaps most notably, his father, who was a multi-instrumentalist and an amateur musician early on.
Bertolf’s current band, Bluefinger, provides the title of his new album on Excelsior Recordings, but it’s the names of those that participate in this series of sessions that play the more prominent roles —Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Mark Schatz on bass, mandolin player David Benedict, and Wes Corbett playing banjo — and figure most prominently in the effort overall. Recorded in Nashville, it represents Bertolf’s most determined attempt yet in terms of establishing himself as one of today’s prime players. In addition to playing guitar and singing the lion’s share of the vocals, he also had a hand in writing all the songs, making this effort all the more impressive in the process.
Indeed, while the title track opens the album as a robust instrumental, it’s the tracks that follow that help define both his proficiency and his prowess. Songs such as Before the Storm and The Way I Love You Know demonstrate early on that musicality and melody figure equally prominently in Bertolf’s efforts. Two other instrumentals, Team Hoover and New Year’s Day, demonstrate the adept picking and profound agility that those involved here so readily employ, but it’s the allure of the album’s beautiful ballads — Jericho, Wrinkles, The Way I Love You Now, and Patty Lane in particular — that make for the most engaging encounters. So too, the casual caress shared in such songs as Another Day, Don’t Look Up, and Cut Me Loose enhance and affirm the album’s overall appeal.
All in all, Bluefinger offers a set of songs that readily affirm Bertolf’s ability to employ both clarity and creativity in equal measure. One can’t help but anticipate what comes next.