Mandolinist Matt Flinner returns with his trio in a new acoustic album that's full of new ideas, rhythms and unique arrangements. Guitarist Ross Martin and bassist Eric Thorin join Flinner in this fusion of bluegrass, jazz and avant-garde music.
Raj's Romp with its lyrical jazz style and clean guitar signals the direction that this album is headed. This is not bluegrass or "standard" acoustic fare, but rather a collection of musically and rhythmically complex songs. Wheels is a good example, with its atonal sections and edgy use of bass. It's not a soothing tune as there's a lot going on, and one has to be in the right mood to listen.
Even the use of the instruments is edgy and different, although on some songs like Full Count it can be little jarring. But if a listener is patient, the different ways of playing and interpreting acoustic music is something special.
But not all the tracks are edgy. The title track is flowing, lyrical and wears well. It's a credit to the musicians and how they interplay with each other, echoing lines and phrases but bringing their own sound to the whole. Bitterroot is an elegant waltz that's graceful and melancholy with a nice back and forth between mandolin and guitar.
Other tunes like Thursday Night at the Sip and Dip are very syncopated, with lots of pauses and breaks in the music. This style shows how together this group is, as this type of jazz- oriented music is very hard to play cleanly.
As with other jazz-styled albums, this one has a lot packed into every song. But with some 15 tracks (including 3 bonus tracks) some might find it hard to follow all that's going on. Some later songs sound very similar to earlier one, which could prove distracting. Overall, this is an excellent album on the cutting edge of acoustic music with a lot here that's fresh and unique.