It almost goes without saying. Put two of the preeminent bluegrass mandolinists of the past 20 years together in the studio, along with a crack rhythm section, and you’re sure to get something memorable tracked.
And so it is with The Mandolin Chronicles from Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson, released today on Pinecastle. This pair of mando masters bring their decades of experience – and their 90 year old instruments – to bear on 10 instrumentals, primarily their own compositions, and 1 new song, that cover the legacy of the mandolin in bluegrass as it was brought to their attention.
There is a previously-unrecorded Bill Monroe tune, Pilgrims Knob, and Alan and Wayne’s original tribute to Big Mon, which they call Owensboro Train. Two tracks, Black Friday and Waltz for Pamela, suggest the sort of Dawgy/New Acoustic Music that David Grisman and Tony Rice pioneered in the 1980s. They even tackle a Charlie Parker tune, Now’s The Time, giving this classic blues a swing-grass feel.
Assisting on roughly two thirds of the tracks are Wyatt Rice on guitar, Harold Nixon on bass, and Ron Stewart on banjo and fiddle. The remaining tunes are played as mandolin duets, and are perhaps the most compelling on the album. The starkness of just the two vintage F-5s allows the contrast between Wayne and Alan’s sound and approach to show through. It was great fun trying to identify who was who before checking the liner notes.
Standout tracks include Wilkes County Breakdown, a mid-tempo Benson original which gives all the boys a chance to demonstrate their skills, a mandolin take on Bill Emerson’s Sweet Dixie, and Tommy Jackson’s Crazy Creek which gets the twin mandolin treatment. The latter’s slightly offbeat scalar structure really rocks with two mandolins playing in harmony.
The Mandolin Chronicles is available on CD and via download from Pinecastle’s web site, popular digital retailers, and from Alan or Wayne at their live shows with Grasstowne and IIIrd Tyme Out respectively.