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Buddy Spicher and Vassar Clements

Runaway Fiddle – 2004 (OMS)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by Buddy Spicher and Vassar Clements

The warmth and friendship shared by these two master fiddlers radiates palpably in this smile-inducing session. Noticeably distinct in their respective playing styles, Clements and Spicher compliment one another exquisitely. Clements just grows more intriguing with age, nimbly winding serpentine new trails through familiar progressions. On the other hand, Spicher's improvisations are marked with an assertive sense of focus: tight, well-conceived, and flawlessly executed.

Obvious care has been taken in the pre-production of this record - the song choices are surprising, the arrangements resourceful and fresh. The program eschews standard bluegrass and string band tunes, settling instead on a fascinating selection of early swing, pop, and jazz standards. Immaculately arranged twin and triple fiddle parts (both bowed and pizzzicato) imitate big-band horn sections, illuminating the influence of swing music on both men's playing. Also worth mentioning are Clements' charmingly weathered vocals. His singing has rarely been so thoroughly documented, and it's one of this set's most disarming elements.

Built on a foundation of camaraderie, mutual respect, and a shared love of timeless tunes, this wonderful album is a refreshing collaboration and a jewel in each man's esteemed catalogs.