ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Appalachian Journey
PERFORMER: Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Edgar Meyer (bass), Mark O’Connor (violin), James Taylor, Alison Krauss (vocals)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 66782
At first sight, Yo-Yo Ma’s recent Baroque projects and his traditional American ‘bluegrass’ trio-playing with Meyer and O’Connor seem just two more unconnected escapades by this versatile and adventurous cellist. But look closer and links emerge: both styles are, after all, centuries old, both are strongly tied to dance, and both require a similar style of light, senza vibrato playing. According to Ma, it was only by treating his bow like a Baroque bow that he could achieve the right speed of articulation for this country music.
There’s one more paradox: this disc, which sounds even more ‘traditional’ than the trio’s 1996 bestseller Appalachia Waltz, has only one traditional number among its 15 tracks – the rest are original compositions, mostly by O’Connor and Meyer.
Dismiss it as ‘crossover’ if you will, but this is highly enjoyable music-making – sounds for wide-open skies, full of impressively virtuosic string playing from all three players, but with a lazy, often improvisational feel and the bluesy harmonies of jazz.
Just one moan – these performances stand pretty well alone, without the booklet’s navel-gazing five-page interview with the performers: once I’d read how the trio’s music is like a field of mushrooms, a single organism with common roots, I felt I’d had enough. Janet Banks