Friday, December 30, 2011

The Goat Rodeo Sessions (Review)

A "goat rodeo", according to Urban Dictionary, is "about the most polite term used by aviation people (and others in higher risk situations) to describe a scenario that requires about 100 things to go right at once if you intend to walk away from it." Fortunately, not only did everything "go right at once", but it almost seems as if stars aligned. That good is the new collaboration album from Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, titled "The Goat Rodeo Sessions". There are also two great vocal guest performances by Aoife O'Donovan.

This album has been on my wishlist thanks to a bit of a Christ Thile musical crush and it certainly didn't disappoint. Thile has grown up since his Nickel Creek days. He's eclipsed Sean and Sara Watkins and come into his own.  The showboating we remember from Nickel Creek and his solo career is still there, but there is so much substance to this album that it's hard to compare them.

I've long admired Edgar Meyer as an incredibly versatile musician. His bass-playing brings foundation, quirk, and playfulness at the same time to the quartet. I don't know much of Duncan, but he holds his own and grabs the spotlight, no doubt. Ma is, as always, a solid, glittering rock of a musician and an artist. Was he ever a diamond "in the rough"? For inattentive listeners, Ma's performance may blend in more than the others, but it really seems to be the mortar holding things together. It is oddly most noticeable when it's absent.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions is equal parts nostalgic, frantic, and ecstatic. It's a great, whirling, windy ride of gorgeous melodies, tight harmonies and tangible camaraderie.  Goat Rodeo has surpassed genre boundaries (which is no small feat) and brought us an incredible work of art. In the words of Stuart Duncan, "It's bound to work. It's just music." It's as simple as that, and deliciously more complicated at the same time.

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