Lady Nora – Bennett Sullivan

Lady Nora - Bennett SullivanWe’ve written once before about Bennett Sullivan, a North Carolina banjo player now plying his trade in New York City.

At the time we were covering his Kickstarter campaign to use crowd sourcing to finance recording a project of his original music. Well, the album has been released, so we assume that the campaign was a success.

Lady Nora contains six contemporary banjo tunes, recorded flawlessly by Sullivan with Rob Hecht on fiddle, Ross Martin on guitar on guitar, and Pat Falco on bass. The tracks range from a screaming hoedown to a lyrical solo banjo waltz, all performed with dexterity, passion and panache.

The opener, Honey Butter, feels like a stately fiddle tune, kicking with a lovely guitar statement of the melody, while Howard’s Knob keeps the fiddle tune vibe, but at a quicker tempo, calling to mind the popular number, Big Sciota. On The Davidson is a sure-enough banjo tune, followed by The Hound, an homage to the early quintet records of David Grisman, the Dawg himself.

Si, Si, No, No rips along in a bluesy vein, with an interesting quarter note triplet motif that implies a crooked measure, while keeping straight time. Everyone gets a fiery solo in on this one.

The short album finishes with the title cut, starting with a melody stated in harmonics. It’s the solo banjo piece, a beautiful tune that one imagines must have been written about someone who means a great deal to Sullivan.

Especially noteworthy is the originality of Bennett’s compositions. They hew closely enough to recognizable stylistic patterns to be comfortable for anyone who enjoys banjo music, with plenty of quirks and twists for those who listen in more detail.

CD copies of Lady Nora are available from Sullivan’s web site, and downloads can be found at CD Baby and iTunes.

Live performances of many of the tunes from the album can be found on YouTube.

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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.