Street Sounds: Stringsmiths release a barn burner

Morning Star music reviewer Dean Gordon-Smith recommends The Goat Rodeo Sessions, featuring four world-class string instrumentalists.

Edgar Meyer

Edgar Meyer

An ad-hoc grouping of four big name string players (Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Edgar Meyer on double bass, Chris Thile on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle) have honed their formidable skills into some sweet pieces.

The promo for Goat Rodeo Sessions reads, “The ground breaking ensemble project from four acclaimed string virtuosos…”

Usually one virtuoso is more than enough even when reined in on a tight leash, but four?  The combined presence (read ego) of four virtuosos could easily overwhelm and flatten (put to sleep) a listener, but not here; not this day.

Being recorded in a Massachusetts barn would seem to suit the project. The quartet taps into rural themes on this album, which has the backwoods glow of an acoustic house concert amongst friends and family.

It’s an intimate mood setting recording that achieves a high spirited energy in all the tracks, which were written by Meyer, Thile and Duncan with the exception of Here and Heaven, which adds the voice and pen of Aoife O’Donovan. Her vocal adds the completing touches for the quartet and subtly shifts the group towards a bluegrass Appalachian sound by way of eastern seaports.

There’s no long-winded whinging that might scare off listeners more attuned to contemporary pop sounds. Instead, the musicians collaborate with a clear view to the end result.

These are folk-themed songs and passages akin to Americana, bluegrass and a modern classical sound.

–– Dean Gordon-Smith is a local musician and longtime music reviewer for The Morning Star.