Curtis McPeake‘s name is spoken with something very much like reverence in the nationwide banjo community. A widely recognized authority on fine and vintage banjos and a dealer in vintage musical instruments of all kinds, he is also an expert picker, as this fine instrumental album makes plain (in case his skill hadn’t already been made clear by his recordings and performances alongside the likes of Bill Monroe and Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper). He is joined on this record by guitarist Charlie Cushman, fiddler Aubrey Haynie, mandolinist Dave Harvey and bassist Dennis Crouch, all together they play a winning assortment traditional and original banjo showcase tunes.
McPeake’s original compositions are some of the best things on this album-the aptly titled “Fire In The Furnace” and “Leap Frog” are both classic pieces of 1950s-style instrumental bluegrass, while “Long Way Home” is a slightly more complex and slightly less zippy composition. On the traditional side there are exciting versions of “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” “Sail Away Ladies,” and the inevitable “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” but the most attractive numbers are a gorgeous arrangement of the gospel standard “Gathering Flowers For The Master’s Bouquet” and the charming old waltz tune “Drunkard’s Hiccups.” This album was made live in the studio over the course of a single long day of recording, with all of the musicians together in the same room; it’s an approach that contributes to a feeling of warmth a camaraderie throughout the album. Highly recommended. –RA, Bluegrass Unlimited