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David Benedict’s “The Golden Angle”

There is no piece of music, and for that matter no musician, that exists alone. Music, by its very nature, is call and response, each person adding their voice to an ongoing conversation. Some people can see a bit further down the road, or skip a couple rhetorical steps, and those are the people we think of as geniuses: Mozart, Miles Davis. Those people.

In the world of acoustic Americana, or folk, or stringband, or whatever it is that we’re calling it at the moment, we don’t really care for the Giant Steps, but prefer to rejoice in the reasoned increments. And that’s what makes this new release, The Golden Angle, from David Benedict so enjoyable. There are some ancient tones in here—a la Bill Monroe and whoever’s call Monroe was responding to—though there are some fresher tones, too. (Is it just me, or is there a whiff of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” in Bendict’s “Leaf by Niggle”?)

Benedict and his peeps—he records and tours with Mile Twelve, though his peeps include lots of other people, too—are keen to join the bigger conversation, responding to the people that have inspired them to speak. Some of them, actually, are on this album: David Grier, Matt Flinner, Missy Raines, Stuart Duncan. Those guys, in turn, have spent careers responding to the people that went before them: Clarence White, Roland White, Monroe, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, John Coltrane, and on it goes. (And Jimi Hendrix, too. Flinner and Grier, along with Todd Phillips included a version of “Little Wing” on their 1999 release, Looking Back. Hmmm … )

Benedict, delightfully, has joined that conversation, and you can hear it all within his work. He brings not just the chops, but also the mind, the perspective, and the joy that comes from participating in something larger than ourselves. He’s learned at the feet of the masters, to be sure, most pointedly as as student of Matt Flinner (who also produced this release) yet brings so much of himself to the project, in turn working masterfully in the service of helping to add—just as all those guys and gals did before—another ring to the big stately tree of, well, folk or Americana or stringband or whatever we’re calling it these days. The album is a delight. It’s nice to check in with Grier, in particular, who hasn’t released anything of his own for a while (though his 2002 I’ve Got the House to Myself is as glorious today as was when it was released). The ensemble work is sterling, as are the arrangements and the production. It’s a very reasoned, studied, yet absolutely joyful noise.

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