117 30th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Henry Koretzky
The 1990s have been a good decade for mandolinists. David Grisman's Acoustic Disc label has flourished through a combination of eclectic programming, state-of-the-art acoustic sound, and Jerry Garcia's recorded legacy. Sam Bush has come out from behind Emmylou Harris' Nash Ramblers to lead his own band, which combines the energy of Newgrass Revival with the electric eclecticism of bandmembers John Cowan and Darrell Scott. And youngster Chris Thile is showing that his chops, displayed both on his own and with the band Nickel Creek, far surpass any child prodigy stage that he's outgrown.
A newer, less familiar name among what are often referred to as "mando monsters" is Matt Flinner, a twentysomething native of Utah now residing in Idaho. Already a veteran of such groundbreaking bands as Sugarbeat (which also featured banjo wizard Tony Furtado and talented songwriter Ben Demerath), Flinner currently performs regularly with The Judith Edelman Band.
On his solo debut recording, THE VIEW FROM HERE, Flinner struts his stuff as both a mandolinist and composer. Guided by the astute production talents of bassist Todd Phillips (an alumnus of the David Grisman Quintet and currently part of Laurie Lewis & Grant Street), this cd has some of the most memorable instrumental newgrass to come out in years. In fact, THE VIEW FROM HERE invites comparisons to Phillips' first solo recording, RELEASED, an unjustly neglected gem that came out on Rounder's Varrick label back in 1984. Both recordings share an aural richness of sounds of carefully recorded acoustic instruments, along with uncluttered arrangements and topnotch picking and bowing by some of the best musicians on the progressive bluegrass scene.
And what a supportive cast Flinner and Phillips have chosen! Guitarist David Grier, probably the most startlingly innovative flatpicker out there today, pushes the envelope with his uncanny rhythmic sense and his delightfully skewed improvs. Highlights include his break on the sprightly City Chickens, and the gradual ascent of his solo from bass string runs to the highest frets on DnA. Dobroist Jerry Douglas, no stranger to the producer's role on acoustic music projects, boosts the overall energy level of the tracks he plays on, particularly on "Wilson Bridge" and the opening track, Red Shift. And you couldn't ask for a better Fiddlers Three than the triumvirate of Darol Anger (Turtle Island String Quartet and David Grisman Quintet), Stuart Duncan (Nashville Bluegrass Band), and Tim O'Brien (Hot Rize, as well as a storied solo career of his own.) Mike Marshall (Modern Mandolin Quartet, DGQ) also lends his talents on a couple of tracks playing the bouzouki.
Amidst this star-studded lineup, Flinner more than holds his own. His playing is clean and crisp, and his mandolin sparkles in the context of the hot playing of the more experienced musicians around him. But it's as a composer that Flinner makes an especially strong first impression. THE VIEW FROM HERE contains ten varied instrumental originals that quickly grow on the listener with just a few hearings. They range in style from the lively fiddle tune Black's Fork and the contemplative title track, to the gentle waltz "The Village Road." His compositions also feature influences as far afield as Scottish drones (Cold Quarters) to jazzy instrumentals with tricky rhythmic shifts (the 6/8 cooker Another Alley).
Throughout THE VIEW FROM HERE the recurring sense is that of a mature musician with a firm command of his instrument of choice and his stylistic idiom. From the opening notes all the way through to the hidden track at the end (wait 3 minutes and thirty seconds for a brief flurry of bluegrass a la Monty Python), it's clear that the mandolin world is in good hands with the talented Matt Flinner.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz