Matt Flinner

Todd Phillips, David Grier, Matt Flinner – 1999 (Compass)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

CDs by Matt Flinner

In the past decade, instrumental-only records have become a rarity in the bluegrass/country genre. No doubt this is due to market forces (instrumentals won't make radio play lists), and it's part of the trend in country that has given instruments even less than a supporting role on many records, more just background noise behind the latest idol's vocals. You won't hear any vocals from Todd Phillips, David Grier and Matt Flinner here, just pure acoustic music that might be equaled by some other great pickers, but not bettered.

It's fusegrass: bluegrass with some jazz and blues that's a gift to your ear and soul. It's simple - bass, guitar and mandolin - yet intricate with melodies that linger. "A Long Time Ago" makes you reach for a lover's hand, while "Car On Fire" may take you to a sleepy country pike on a foggy morning. Grier and Flinner trade melodies atop Phillips' bass with no distractions, no misses, as deftly as tightrope walkers tread above Niagara Falls.

This isn't foot-stompin' music for the next jam session; it's more wineglass-and-fireplace time.