Red Knot
Reviews from the Atlanta Celtic Quarterly
Red Knot

All reviews by David Marcus unless otherwise noted.
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Album Cover Under the Influence
Chris Grotewohl (5-string banjo) with Roger Landes (bouzouki, guitar); 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
The 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 style.

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 cuts down.

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+.

David Marcus  
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The Atlanta Red Knot Celtic Quarterly