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Jeff Austin & Chris Castino

Songs from the Tin Shed – 2004 (Frog Pad)

Reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh

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CDs by Jeff Austin & Chris Castino

Musically this disc is very solid, actually venturing into stunning in spots. Unfortunately there are also vocals, and that isn't the strong suit for either Austin or Castino. Austin is one of several fine musicians that have taken bluegrass and put a new face on it. His group, the Yonder Mountain String Band, has grown in popularity and stature over the past couple of years. Castino is a guitarist for jam band The Big Wu, a role that has gained added importance due to recent personnel shifts within the band.

The two players have been friends since a meeting in 2000. This disc was record in the spring of last year with players from Austin's group as well as Nick Forster from Hot Rize and Noam Pickelny from the jam band Leftover Salmon. Instrumentally, the disc in engaging and challenging as the two artists push one another and the other musicians into expressions not often heard with traditional bluegrass instruments. The vocals act as more of a distraction from that music instead of an enhancement. Neither Austin or Castino have great lead voices and seem to struggle to find the right way to get the lyrics across.

Overall the disc can't be overlooked for its instrumental strengths and in spite of its vocal weakness.