Monday, October 3, 2011


Song Title: "Clinch Mountain Backstep"
Artist: David Lindley
Search Term: "Backstop" [Google returns 29,000 listings for the misspelling "Clinch Mountain Backstop," which is how we wound up here.]

I'm constantly bowled over by the lickety speed with which banjo players are able to pluck their way through bluegrass numbers. This is likely because my dexterity is lacking, to say the least. (I do type quickly enough to earn a living as a transcriptionist, but my guitar fingerwork is fairly pathetic and I can use chopsticks to get food into my mouth only if I use them as fork-like stabbing implements.) Thus, I am not the fellow you want to ask to evaluate a picker's skill, because any banjo performance that proceeds faster than "The Rainbow Connection" is likely to elicit a "Zounds!" from me.

So I really have no idea whether David Lindley's performance of this Ralph Stanley-penned instrumental is exemplary or thoroughly humdrum by the standards of banjo enthusiasts, but I, for one, am impressed by his dozen-notes-per-second accuracy. The banjo's only musical associate is an acoustic guitar in the right channel which frequently skids to a dramatic halt so Lindley can continue showing his stuff. (This makes listening to the song through headphones a somewhat distracting experience.) The song itself is a 90-second Appalachian rockslide, with many quick variations on a few minor chords, culminating in one final, chaotic strum so merciless that the banjo audibly weakens in Lindley's hands. I suppose concluding the song with the sound of a moonshine still explosion would be a little on-the-nose, but the sounds of backwoods catastrophe are all over this spry track.

1 comment: