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Dick Weissman and Gary Keiski

Pioneer Nights(Wind River)

On his latest offering, former Colorado picker and current Oregon resident Dick Weissman offers eighteen instrumentals that bring to mind bygone days without seeming like museum pieces -- thanks to the spirit of adventure with which Weissman and sometime violin accompanist Keiski infuse them. "From Granada to Kingston," for example, stirs flamenco and reggae influences into a banjo-driven bouillabaisse that's more than the sum of its parts. "Wolfgang's Banjo," on the other hand, offers a twangy take on classical stylings that Mozart probably never envisioned. Other strong selections draw their inspiration from more contemporary influences: "Django's Dilemma" proffers a jaunty brand of melancholy that would do namesake Django Reinhardt proud, while in "Rhapsody for Ron," Weissman pays tribute to a fallen former student in a style that's more triumphant than tragic. In a similar fashion, "Crabtree's Lament" employs bluegrass-tinged tones to deliver a ditty far less dour than its title might imply, while "Sunday Sermon" begs off the brimstone to suggest instead the tranquility of a weekend morning before the caffeine has kicked in. Granted, Weissman's penchant for playing with listeners' expectations can occasionally get out of hand, as in "Superstition Mountain," a haunting guitar composition that meanders through multiple passages but makes little attempt to tie them together thematically. The only other false steps on this CD occur in the form of lightweight but forgivable compositions such as "Breeze-il" and "Mr. Banjeaurine Man." Sporting more six-string strumming than Weissman's previous work, Pioneer Nights proves ultimately that whatever ax he wields, this former John Phillips collaborator has hardly lost his edge.

 
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