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David Grisman

Dawg Duos – 1999 (Acoustic Disc)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by David Grisman

The best musicians know that the key to a successful career lies not in technical proficiency. Flash and dazzle have their place, but the greats always have - and continue to - adhered to this timeless adage: always make the other guy sound better than you. David Grisman's latest may feature plenty of hot picking, but the real star is Grisman's remarkable restraint. His subtlety and fluid catalogue of supportive nuances elevate what could be a meaningless chops-fest into a something more. This is a textbook of telepathic interplay and selfless control.

Alternately playful and medative, this set of 12 duets (with yet another hidden bonus track placed at the end of the last track - is this a clich+ yet?) features a who's who of contemporary acoustic musicians. Drawing on jazz, bluegrass, and Indian among other backgrounds, Grisman's partners are a who's who of acoustic music. Bryan Bowers' finger-picked autoharp adds an eerie texture to the spacious "Mandoharp Fantasy," while duets with B+la Fleck (banjo) and Bob Brozman (National guitar) are more nimble. The presence of legendary session drummer Hal Blaine (a veteran of everyone from the Beach Boys to John Denver) on the classic showtune "Buttons and Bows" is a particularly swinging delight.

Fans of wild, rippling runs and raucous solos will have little to chew on here. But if you value a higher level of musicianship, Grisman and company truly do not disappoint.