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Chris Pandolfi

Looking Glass – 2009 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Chris Pandolfi

There are a number of young instrumentalists in the fringes of bluegrass and new acoustic music who are reinventing the genre to their own liking, from Noam Pikelny to Matt Flinner, Chris Thile, and more; add Infamous Stringdusters co-founder Chris Pandolfi to the list with his second solo disc.

Without lyrics to catch a listener's ear, the melody reigns supreme in instrumental music - just ask those sixties surf-rockers like The Ventures. Pandolfi's chosen instrument, the banjo, at first may not seem that fitting of a vehicle for classic melodies, but just listen to the tone he achieves and the tunes he comes up with here.

Pandolfi's compositional style varies from a more Bela Fleck-like style of acoustic improv featuring fast waterfalls of notes to a nearly classical frame of reference where the melodic themes repeat again and again in Mozart or Bach fashion. Regardless of the foundation, Pandolfi put forth the kind of instrumental album one can listen to not as background music, but as a fully engaged participant in the cascading sounds coming forth from the players - in addition to Pandolfi, the disc's pickers include Flinner, Byron House, Stuart Duncan, Jesse Cobb, Eric Thorin, and fellow Stringdusters Andy Hall and Jeremy Garrett.