|Reviews from the Atlanta Celtic Quarterly
All reviews by David Marcus unless otherwise noted.
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||Under the Influence
Chris Grotewohl (5-string banjo) with Roger Landes
Zan McLeod (guitar, dumbek); Valerie Plested (fiddle);
Albert Alfonso (bodhrán); Connie Dover (keyboards); Kieran O'Hare
(uillean pipes). Fifth String Music Box 1393, Mission
KS 66222. 12 tracks; 40'6".
Track List, Sound Clips & Order Form
5-string banjo is an instrument of America and of descendants
of Celtic immigrants who are generations removed from their homeland.
In this premiere album, Chris Grotewohl brings the instrument
back to the roots from which they came. Several people play Irish
music using a clawhammer technique, but with his three-finger finger-pick
technique, Chris establishes the 5-string banjo as a traditional Irish-style
instrument and himself as its master. In the process, he voices the
instrument with a sound that is close to that of an tenor banjo, but
retains some of the more fluid and graceful feel of the clawhammer
Chris wrote about half the pieces on the album. They range from being
entirely Irish in sound to revealing some of Bela Fleck's influence
on him. Fortunately, it is the sound the Bela had before he went "beyond
melody" and, while surprising in this context, it provides very nice
contrast to the somewhat heavy sound of the band assembled for the
album. One of these pieces, Quasimodal, is my favorite cut.
In general, the album has a dense driving sound with Roger Landes
providing excellent accompaniment on most
cuts, assisted by Zan McLeod and Connie Dover. Unfortunately
(and surprisingly) some of Zan's backups are heavy and drag a few
I find this an solid and interesting album that I look forward to
spending a lot of time with. If you like traditional music with a
big sound--or simple enjoy the banjo--try this one out. Rating: B+.