Rounder Records Corp.
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Henry Koretzky
The name Kenny Kosek may seem unfamiliar to you. His is a case of someone whose fiddling has been heard by nearly everyone but his name by only a precious few. But those who've heard his playing beyond his relatively anonymous work for advertising jingles and Broadway musicals know Kosek as one of the core members of a group of New York-based innovators in the area of progressive bluegrass music since the 1970s. Up until now, most of his more prominent recorded legacy has been with the trailblazing bands Breakfast Special and Country Cooking, as well as his out-of-print Rounder LP collaboration with swing fiddler Matt Glaser, Hasty Lonesome.
All of this makes Kosek's first solo recording, Angelwood, an extra special event. Both his instrumental agility and his astonishing eclecticism are front and center here, as he leads a bevy of musical compatriots through a wide assortment of tunes and styles. The CD opens with his unaccompanied violin escalating through a series of accelerating fiddle tunes in The Locks at Athy Medley, followed by Kosek's strong lead vocals and horn arrangements on a swinging Strictly from Dixie. As Angelwood proceeds, the listener is led through rags, old-timey banjo/guitar duets, gorgeous waltzes (with an especially sweet mandolin break by the always amazing Andy Statman), a stellar banjo/dobro (Tony Trischka and Stacy Phillips) duet on John Morton Rag, and tight triple fiddle harmonies.
Never one to worry about coloring inside the lines, Kosek also supplies plenty of surprises as well. Visco City Breakdown, described as "a movie score in search of a screenplay," mixes Larry Campbell's pedal steel guitar, the banjo work of Tony Trischka, and the twin electric guitars of Kosek and Jon Sholle into a montage worthy of Eisenstein. The triple fiddles re-emerge to lend an unprecedented element of swing to the old standard When You and I Were Young, Maggie. The CD closes with a hard rock treatment of Jesse McReynolds' popular bluegrass instrumental Stoney Creek (described by Kosek as sounding like "Jim and Jesse with tattoos.")
Angelwood is a riotously versatile showcase for Kenny Kosek's talents as a fiddler and singer. (Not to mention as a humorist--his liner notes alone are worth the price of the CD.) Kudos to Rounder for giving this fine musician a chance to shine.
Edited by Jeff Wenning