It seems fair to say that there’s no strong bond than that which exists between parent and child, or, more specifically, as in the case of Ken and Brad Kolodner, the ties that bind father and son. With Stony Run, the duo’s fourth album, that precept proves true courtesy of their musical synergy, and their ability to draw on a traditional tapestry while still maintaining a contemporary credence. The two complement one another with an adroit sense of novelty and nuance, Ken’s masterful hammered dulcimer finding a perfect complement through Brad’s tasteful banjo. Likewise, the latter’s low-lit vocals maintain the duo’s unpretentious approach, giving the entire album a decided folk-like finesse and understated elegance.
So too, the choice of material enhances the appeal, with opening track, Wild Bill Jones, replayed with a driving delivery that’s well worthy of that bluegrass standard. A cover of Kate Wolf’s beautiful ballad, Across the Great Divide, is rendered with the reverence this stirring song has always been due, its resilient refrain captured both solemnly and simply. Likewise, the album’s instrumentals — Stoney Run, Wisteria, Dizzy Creek — are conveyed with taste and tenderness, the spare arrangements giving each instrument in their arsenal an opportunity to find its specific place while still making its presence known. So too, the medley Richmond Blues/Possum on the Rails find the nuanced tones and the sturdy support combining for a celebratory sound that’s devoid of flash and frenzy.
The Kolodners get an assist in this endeavor from fiddler and guitarist Rachel Eddy and bassist Alex Lacuement, but there again, their contributions buttress the bottom end without intruding on the primary proceedings. That said, innovation isn’t excluded; the marimba variation on the hammered dulcimer found in Black Eyed Susie is striking even in its simplicity, just as the gentle tones of The Circle create a sedate sense of repose, all the more striking given the ethereal ambiance.
In sum, Stoney Run offers an adroit example of instrumental artistry and integrity, stirred with equal measure. Credit the Koldners with one of the best examples of innovative traditional string music heard yet this year.