Smoke from the Kitchen
Although he can play anything with strings, Alabama native and current Atlanta resident Barry Waldrep is best known for his prodigious banjo skills. His list of credits is staggering, yet he has managed to stay under the radar despite his contributions on over a dozen bluegrass tributes to the music of everyone from Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond and R.E.M. He was also a member of the band Rollin’ In the Hay and has a handful of previous solo projects.
Waldrep called in high profile Southern musicians such as Marshall Tucker Band drummer Paul Riddle, bassist Oteil Burbridge, members of Blackberry Smoke and the Zac Brown Band and the ubiquitous Chuck Leavell for this wide-ranging, beautifully recorded set. The string master’s phenomenal playing slips into swampy rock, folk, blues, country, jazz and even funk on a dozen songs that dispel any myths that banjos are only to be used in bluegrass. Instrumental workouts such as the title track shift tempos and styles with ease but are never overthought or too busy for the sake of variety.
An extra DVD captures the congenial studio vibe showing these terrific musicians bringing their own ideas and styles to the table with Waldrep’s encouragement. The results will make banjo skeptics re-evaluate what the instrument can do, expanding its historically organic boundaries while staying true to its roots with music that’s classy, innovative and unexpectedly diverse.