Salamander Crossing CD Cover

Salamander Crossing

Salamander Crossing

(SS 1228)

Signature Sounds Recording Co.
P.O. Box 106
Whatley, MA 01093

A reiview for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Bob Rose (

What's a Salamander Crossing? In Amherst, Massachussetts, it's a pair of tunnels that amorous salamanders use to cross the road for mating in their vernal pond. It's also the self-titled debut CD from a hot new Amherst based bluegrass Band.

Salamander Crossing plays a fast and tight bluegrass style reminiscent of Bela Fleck's various "newgrass" efforts. Sporting guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, banjo, nice vocals and excellent production, these folks are ready to jam!

The core of the band consists of Rani Arbo on fiddle and vocals. Jeff Kelliher plays guitar and mandolin and provides vocals. Andrew Kinsey is on bass and vocals. Guest musician, Tony Furtado is credited on the banjo. If this guy isn't a permanent member of the band, they should get him to join. The banjo picking is truly outstanding and really helps to pull the songs together.

The song selection leans heavily on cover tunes, but there are several orignal's as well. Kinsey's "Fire in the Sky" is a sad song about losing a home to fire. When I listen to this song I think of the dying rainforests, and how the creatures must feel when their homes (the trees) are destroyed by fire. Rani Arbo's "Buring Bridges" is a traditional sort of country/bluegrass song about loving, longing and leaving. Rani's vocals on this song, as well as throughout the CD are crisp, clear and very strong.

Jeff Kelliher's "Wheels" is another example of incredible musicianship in this band. The words are simple and direct. Yet, the music is complex and meandering and really propels this song to wonderful heights.

The CD begins with a ripping version of Kate Wolf's "Desert Wind" and is a masterpiece. Amazingly nimble instrumentation (especially the banjo) and stellar vocals drive this song like a hot desert wind.

They picked some really terrific songs to cover including a nice contribution from Bruce Cockburn titled, "Child of the Wind." Included are covers from Shawn Colvin and John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Colvin's wonderful "Shotgun Down the Avalanche" is done in a soft and loving way that accentuates the beautiful words. Another more unusual cover (for a bluegrass band) is Lennon and McCartney's ballad "Things We Said Today." Again, Salamander Crossing does a great job expressing the sweetness tinged with melencholy that the song evokes.

I completely enjoyed this CD. Friends I've loaned it to have had positive comments about it. It rocks, it jams, it says something, and it soothes the senses. My only complaint: it's over too soon! I'll just have to listen to it again!

Edited by Lee Rademacher (
Coyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission.

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