Fiddlesticks: Fiddlers 4 serves up that old-time religion--and a whole lot more
Fiddlers 4: Darol Anger and Michael Doucet, violin; Bruce Molsky, violin and guitar; Rushad Eggleston, cello
Fiddlers 4. Fiddlers 4: Darol Anger and Michael Doucet, violin; Bruce Molsky, violin and guitar; Rushad Eggleston, cello. (Compass 7-4334-2)
It's not every day that you find a fiddling supergroup, but the newly formed Fiddlers 4 fits the bill. The result is a remarkable musical melange of three salty dogs and one fresh face (cellist Rushad Eggleston) that comprises a true American vernacular string quartet, thanks to the breadth and depth of these players. Darol Anger—violinist, fiddler, composer, educator, and producer—is a veteran of the David Grisman Quintet and founding member of the jazz-oriented Turtle Island String Quartet, who also contributes to the virtuosic chambergrass groups Psychograss and Newgrange.
Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet is the driving force behind the Grammy-winning Beausoleil and helped bring Louisiana regional folk music into the mainstream in 1986 with the Belizaire the Cajun soundtrack. Bruce Molsky, dubbed the Rembrandt of Appalachian Fiddling, is a brilliant old-time fiddler and living repository of mountain fiddle tunes. Eggleston, the first student admitted on a full scholarship to the Berklee School of Music string program, is a skillful improviser.
Together, Fiddlers 4 moves through a sometimes dizzying array of styles, alternating between the '20s jazz of Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Todalo" (renamed to complement the players' research into the song's origin as accompaniment for the toddle dance) to the traditional Cajun tune "You Little Wild Thing (La Betaille)," featuring Eggleston's pulsing cello.
But Fiddlers 4 also transcends genre and synthesizes these far-flung influences into a complex style that blends chamber music and traditional American folk music into a rich palette that is unique. That is obvious on Anger's "African Solstice," a nod to the West African nation of Mali, birthplace of the blues. In the song (which Molsky describes as "a cycle of tensions"), the strings craft an arabesque puzzle, moving back and forth from a simple melody line to a quadruple counterpoint, and from elegant chamber-style playing to ragged scratching before resolving in a breathy sigh.
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