Patuxent Records, based in Rockville, MD, has two new releases celebrating bluegrass mandolin. One involves teaming up a veteran stylist with a newcomer, and the other an exercise of label owner perogative.
Frank Wakefield has long been an artist who goes his own way. He had the most conventional of training, working as a sideman in the 1950s with both Red Allen and Jimmy Martin. It doesn’t get much more bluegrass that that! But as the new energy of the folk music revival of the ’60s made its presence felt, Frank began to experiment with new sounds. He toured as a member of The Greenbrier Boys with John Herald, Bob Yellin and Jim Buchanan, one of the first groups to start pushing hard at the boundaries of bluegrass, as did The Country Gentlemen.
Wakefield has also been known for such memorable eccentricities as baking his precious Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 in an oven, and titling a string of instrumental composites “Jesus Loves His Mandolin Player #x.” Can an artist be both an icon and an iconoclast?
All that aside… This new project, Frank Wakefield, Taylor Baker & Friends, pairs the legend with a much younger player in Baker, on a rousing set of standards and Wakefield originals. They are accompanied on 16 tracks by Brennen Ernst on guitar, Stefan Custodi on bass, and Tom Mindte on third mandolin and accordion.
Tracks include the aforementioned Jesus Loves His Mandolin Player No.1, standards like Red Wing, Arkansas Traveler, and Golden Slippers, plus a polka medley of Beer Barrel Polka and Under The Double Eagle. Great fun for mando fans.
The second new mandolin project is Something I’ve Been Working On, by Tom Mindte. If you aren’t from the DC area (including MD and VA suburbs), you may not be familiar with this bluegrass impresario and mandolin picker. But as the owner/operator of Patuxent Records, he is well-situated – and well within his rights – to share this 13 track project of classic and original mandolin music.
Tom has assembled an all-star cast of Maryland and Northern Virginia pickers as his rhythm section. Danny Knicely and Jordan Tice handle the guitar, Jesse Baker, Mark Delaney and John Brunschwyler take care of banjo, and David Knicely plays bass. Patrick McAvinue, Casey Driscoll and Nate Leath share fiddle duties and Ethan Hughes is on reso-guitar.
Buzz Busby’s influence is felt throughout this CD, with two of his mandolin tunes among the tracks, a lovely tribute to Buzz in the liner notes, and Tom’s respect for Busby’s understated style apparent in his playing throughout. There is also a shout out to Jesse McReynolds in the form of El Cumbanchero.
The remainder of the tunes consist of fiddle tunes and Tom’s original tunes. All are well-played and enjoyable.
On top of that, the CD cover proclaims that it is presented in Vivid Sound!
Both albums are available on CD or download from the Patuxent web site.