Groovy New Album: Bluegrass+

Friend Spencer Capier’s new album, Musical Chairs, accompanied me today on a gorgeous drive up the Acadian Coastal Road north of Shediac, New Brunswick. Somehow the funky combination of bluegrass and various electric and electronic instruments bridged the gap between old and new, just like the various little communities I passed through sporting their Acadian colours and state-of-the-art TV satellite dishes.

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Spencer plays most of the instruments on the recording—mainly mandolin, guitar, and violin/fiddle—with help from musical friends such as Phil Robertson on drums, Adam Thomas or Rene Worst on bass, and some Arends person on guitar. (She’s some kind of session musician, I think. Seems competent enough.)

Some classic hymns get a Capieresque twist: “Praise to the Lord” and “And Can It Be.” Staying on the right side of cute, the bluegrassy lilt gives them fresh life. Several original compositions let Spencer show his improvisational chops. And a well-known “Bourrée” by JSB shows that the only way Bach doesn’t sound good is to play him badly.

My favourites, however, are those (to my own surprise) with a Latin feel. “La Brisa” is pretty cool (as in “warm summer evening in the Caribbean” cool), and Joplin’s “Solace” is the pièce de resistance that closes out the album.

Christmas is coming, and CDs like this make excellent gifts for almost everyone. (“Almost” takes into account “those with irredeemably bad taste in music.”) Spencer’s fine Christmas album also belongs on your Yuletide playlist, but today, with Christmas still over the horizon, is the day for playing “Musical Chairs.”

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