Album: The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Artists: Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma
Label: Sony Masterworks
Similar Artists: Chris Thile, Bela Fleck
Much of the new music I’ve reviewed recently takes our ears on a trip. It dazzles us with electronically synthesized timbres and computer-generated atmospheres; it tries to be something we’ve never heard before or could never imagine hearing. This is exciting for those of us who keep up with the products of a constantly progressing musical world. Yet amazing musical projects are constantly being produced that don’t rely on new sounds or computer programs. For this issue, I’ve chosen an album of music that drives deep into America’s roots — with a twist. This is an all-star collaboration of some of the best bluegrass players plus the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
“The Goat Rodeo Sessions” is a collection of beautifully played bluegrass tunes that have an air of classical style. The term “goat rodeo” is synonymous with “a chaotic situation,” as is made relevant in this atypical blend of the bluegrass and classical genres. Musical style aside, the first thing any audiophile would notice when listening to “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” is the incredibly well-captured richness of this choir of stringed instruments.
The casual listener might want to save a dance for another occasion. These pieces are meant to be listened to hard. Who am I kidding — I danced a little when I listened for the first time. However, you can’t ignore the sheer virtuosity present in every melody and rhythm. Each player is a master of his instrument.
It’s important to appreciate that these players can come together and create something in real time that is just as good or better than something that one guy with the power of a computer can create. There is something about acoustic instruments, when played well in harmony, that emit frequencies and flavors, if you will, that is more pleasing than any synthesizer. There is a beauty in the act of individuals joining melodies in human-generated unison. No wild effects or artificial elements added, the music is full on its own.
In another post, I could comment in depth about what this collaboration says about the direction of music. I might have something to say about what these traditional genres, bluegrass and classical, might turn into as musical leaders such as Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile begin to co-create and cross-pollinate. For now, pick up a copy of “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” and just listen to it for the music that it is, no judgments or opinions added.