“Bluegrass Unlimited:” “Dance of Life” by Andy May

Andy May started performing in the late ’60s, playing guitar in New York City with Kenny Kosek as part of the Star Spangled String Band. Andy subsequently expanded his horizons by moving to the Amherst, Massachusetts, area where he began songwriting, playing the mandolin and jamming with Jim Heffernan. Now located in Colorado, Andy has brought together Kenny and his fiddle, Jim on dobro and banjo, David Dick on banjo, Rudi Weeks on bass, and another New Yorker, Roger Mason also on bass, for “Dance Of Life (A Mandolin Celebration).”

This release features eight traditional bluegrass tunes, jigs and reels as well as Bill Monroe’s “Bluegrass Stomp” and two May originals, the title track and “Bay Of Fundy Reel.” On “Dance Of Life” which opens the cassette, Andys light, bright mandolin picking sets the lead for Kenny’s swinging fiddle and the combination results in a sassy, foot-stomping, tune. You can’t help but like this number! The old classic “Bill Cheetham” follows and here Andy’s quick tempo is embellished by Kenny with a hot, bluesy fiddle lead. The banjo playing is also strong, but unfortunately the lack of liner notes leaves the listener guessing whether it’s Jim or David doing the picking.

The Celtic-flavored “Swallowtail Jig” is next and by now it’s hard to hold your seat as Andy and the boys beckon you to get up and dance. The version of “Soldier’s Joy” that follows is enhanced by raspy vocals: “I am my Mamma’s darling boy, I’ll play a little tune called Soldier’s Joy!” The immortal “Bluegrass Stomp” closes the first side. On this cut we finally get to hear the fine Dobro work of Jim Heffernan, although it’s just a lick or two. Jim is one of America’s best kept Dobro secrets, but Rutabaga Records is helping to spread the word. (Pick up Jim’s “Dobro” – Rutabaga RR 3002 for a real treat.)

Some side two highlights Include a lightning-paced version of another mandolin number, “Devil’s Dream,” as well as Andy’s second original “Bay Of Fundy Reel.” This slower paced, methodical tune has a beautiful, timeless sound.

Dance Of Life is a light, enjoyable frolic through traditional mandolin standards. The musicianship is high, the original works strong and the tape is really a lot of fun.

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