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Joshua Palmer

met-a-cog-ni-tion – 2015 (Patuxent)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Joshua Palmer

Joshua Palmer is a very good mandolin player and composer of instrumental music. If it's bluegrass, it's at least progressive bluegrass, but most people will likely agree it mostly falls somewhere beyond that niche.

"Poe" is an intricate piece that features Taylor Baker on a second mandolin. Its twin is "The Raven and the Crow" (both nods to an interest in Edgar Allen Poe). Minimalist - just the mandolins - they are intricate, but may be of limited interest to anyone except a mandolin aficionado because you don't get much sense of a cohesive melody from them. "Owl's Hollow," named after Palmer's hometown in Alabama, has an old time sound, both in the melody as well as Mark Schatz's clawhammer banjo (Schatz plays bass on the project). "Owl's Hollow" underlines what may be an issue: Palmer isn't a very good singer, and his lyrics are not very compelling. The vocal tracks won't grab your attention and rope you in.

There are some very nice tracks, and he has an excellent supporting cast. "The Shipmaster" has a pretty melody with Kenny Smith's guitar adding a nice, if not challenging, touch. "Train of Tears" has a nice intro by fiddler Nate Leath and excellent Dobro work by Andy Hall. Scott Vestal rounds out the crew on banjo (and Smith has a great guitar break on this number). The title track is a very good, upbeat piece and shows Palmer's skill with crisp and accurate picking, even high on the neck. "The Dusk" has a different sound with Schatz playing some arco bass and there's good interplay between the instruments. This and Doyle Lawson's "Misty Morning" are the two best tracks.

Ultimately, the CD is uneven between excellent instrumental work that sometimes wanders looking for a theme and vocals that are not likely to please a wide audience.