There’s a certain truth to the tile of Kyser George’s new album, Taking the Lead, given the fact that it finds him expanding on the lessons learned from watching his father’s band early on and from immersing himself in the heritage of North Carolina’s traditional musical firmament. George applied those teachings early on, picking up his first instrument, a mandolin, at the tender age of six and then gradually increasing his instrumental arsenal from that point on by teaching himself guitar, banjo, bass. and drums. He’s also played professionally with his band ShadowGrass, and often taken the opportunity to play with any number of seasoned musicians as well. What’s especially remarkable is the fact that Kyser himself is a mere 15 years old, and given the tight knit performances that are displayed herein, it’s clear that’s he’s incredibly astute for one so young.
Naturally then, Taking the Lead finds George doing just that, showing his strengths on ten well-plied offerings that reflect his strengths and skills on half a dozen instruments in his inventory. At the same time, he enlists support from his dad, David George, and a small circle of able sidemen.
Their combined talents are in evidence everywhere here, from the joyful take on Brushy Mountain Pen and a pair of uplifting instrumentals, #6 Barn Dance and Little Maggie, to the unassuming set-up of Whiskey Before Breakfast and the folky back porch ballad, Julie Ann. Indeed, the enthusiasm never wanes, whether the musicians opt for an uptick in energy or simply tow a totally traditional motif.
There’s also consistency in young George’s prowess as a picker, particular on a song such as Get Up John, where his rapid-fire mandolin playing makes for a nimble workout, one that’s accentuated by his fluid finesse. On Old Dangerfield, a Bill Monroe composition, George takes the mic entirely on his own, save the accompaniment of his father on drums and bass. Here again, he provides a deft, yet decisive delivery, and given the instrumental interplay summoned at his command, all the bluegrass basics are emphatically sustained.
Taking the Lead is clearly a decisive step forward in what promises to be a most productive career.