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The Andrew Collins Trio - And It Was Good (Self Release)

Bluegrass has come a long way since the first Appalachian settlers began bashing, bowing and plucking whatever instruments they had to hand. Indeed, the music has enjoyed a long history of evolution, and whilst much of what Bill Monroe would recognise as bluegrass is still very much alive and well, experimentation has widened the boundaries extensively since the dawn of the 21st Century to create a fascinating hybrid.

One of the artists responsible for blurring the lines between bluegrass and complex classical music is Canadian mandolin player Andrew Collins. By injecting virtuoso composition and a keen eye for complex yet beautiful melody, Collins has lifted old time instrumental folk music a few more feet into the air. On AND IT WAS GOOD, Andrew is joined by fellow string wizard Mike Mezzateszta and superlative bassist James McEleney for an eight-track concept album inspired by the life and work of the late avant-garde fiddler Oliver Schroer; another Canadian artist who, in his tragically short life, heaved traditional music towards new and exciting realms. These eight fascinating, nimble-fingered and moving compositions - all of them Collins originals - celebrate not only a much missed musician but the very marrow of Canada and its music.

As well as spilling forty minutes worth of frothing trio instrumentals, Collins has coloured the album with the enchanting sound of the Phantasmagoria String Quartet. The opening track, Light From The Darkness, is an exciting and constantly impulsive piece but, thanks to the emotive string quartet parts, has a melancholic and somewhat filmic quality that manages to pluck not only at musical strings but at those of the heart, too. Seeds Of Its Own Kind takes this a little further with its devastatingly beautiful, Nick Drake-esque opening whilst Fish and Fowl represents the magic of fusing traditional and experimental music to create something which struggles to be defined but never fails to delight.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky