For Penguin Eggs
Joe Troop was born and raised in North Carolina, where he learned bluegrass; he later moved to Argentina, where he taught it. With three of his students he formed Che Apalache: Pau Barjau (banjo), Franco Martino (guitar) and Martin Bobrik (mandolin). They play bluegrass spectacularly, and clearly know the traditions backward and forward and back again. They demonstrate that in tracks like “Over in Glory” and “Rock of Ages” on this their second release. The Latin influences are here, too, as on “Maria” and “24 de marzo.” Everything else is masterful amalgam of the two and then some, as in a song sung in Mandarin, “The Coming of Spring.”
They bring all those heritages, cultures, and perspectives to bear, here, in an album that is best listened to as an album: from start to finish, again, and again, and again. The material is notable for so many things, though two tracks assert themselves as much for how they’re crafted as for what they have to say. “The Wall” is about that wall: Trump is never mentioned here, though his presence is felt. The band toured the US southern border and performed this song in the shadow of it. “The Dreamer” is about DACA, as the title suggests, but it’s about more than that, too, namely the experience we all share—whether you’re from Yadkin County or the Yucatan—of the journey toward belonging. There they sing what could be a manifesto for the band: “Now you and I can sing a song / And we can build a congregation / But only when we take a stand / Will we change our broken nation.”
In Che Apalache’s hands, bluegrass is a very big room with lots of people, thoughts, and struggles within it. It’s also full of fellowship, gorgeous harmonies and crackerjack solos, all carefully, expertly produced by Bela Fleck. Impressively, they’ve created something here and in their live performances that is greater than its exceptionally long list of parts. Rearrange My Heart isn’t just important in a musical sense, though it is that. It’s also important in another sense, which is why it deserves our attention.