Track Premiere: Guacmaster from The Faux Paws

The Faux Pas – photo by Louise Bichan

The Faux Paws consist of brothers Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand along with their friend Chris Miller. They play an interesting mix of bluegrass and folk music, with elements of jazz and other roots music styles thrown in. For example, banjo player Miller is also a trained saxophonist and he loves to insert an unexpected sax solo in the middle of a fiddle tune.

As you can see in this new single from the Paws, Guacmaster, which launches as a tasty mandolin number before Miller’s sax leads the guys off in a different direction. For those open to an acoustic fusion sound, it offers an amusing and clever take on the fiddle tune tradition. Call it smooth grass?

Chris tells us a little about the tune.

“To me, Guacmaster to me is the quintessential Andrew and Noah tune—the groove is first and foremost, and it’s so fat and funky that it adapts really well to the sax. The percussive mandolin is what makes this still feel like a bluegrass tune to me, and one can’t get around David Grisman’s influence on all things jazz/mandolin, but the general arc of the melody comes from the brothers’ heavy experience in the American contra dance tradition, which draws from New England, Irish, and Quebecois and Appalachian old-time fiddle musics.

When I’m playing this tune, I’m trying to think of the sax like a fiddle—’How would Stuart Duncan approach this smooth melody on the B part?’ and ‘How would Casey Driessen play around with these rhythms?’ At the same time, I try to think about phrasing in a way so it fits somewhere in between blending with the mandolin on one hand and highlighting what makes the saxophone a unique instrument on the other. Jeff Coffin from the Flecktones has been a big influence on me in that regard.”

Have a listen.

Gaucmaster by The Faux Paws is available now as a single wherever you stream or download music online.

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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.