Roger Landes,
Dragon Reels
(self-produced, 1996;
Dorian, 2001)

It's hard to imagine an instrument less suited for absorption into the Irish tradition than the bouzouki. This album proves otherwise, however, showing off the Roger Landes style of Irish music. Landes, a Missouri native formerly with the bands Scartaglen and Glenfire, plays bouzouki on nine tracks, guitar on two and mandolin on one, bringing instruments often consigned to supporting roles into the foreground.

Primary accompaniment is by John Whelan on accordion, which is another instrument that really brings out the Irish sound. Zan MacLeod provides additional backing with some of the greatest guitar picking I have ever heard. As an added treat, Chris Grotewohl brings his unique banjo style to three cuts. Also notable are Bob Burns' lyrical bass playing on a few tracks, plus Mike Dugger on fiddle and Joe Root's rollicking piano. Singer Connie Dover adds a vocal treat on "The Devil & the FarmerŐs Wife," which also features Sir Angus McGarrish on slide pipes.

This album is jam-packed with music from the best musicians playing the best music. This album comprises tunes both old and new from America, Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton. All of the playing is lovely and Landes' compositions are scarcely distinguishable from the traditional numbers; his adaptations and arrangements are also superb, and he plays with an easy virtuosity that never calls attention to itself.

The overview on the entire CD is great, and there are no flaws anywhere to be found. It's just great playing from the best.

- Rambles
written by Jerry Holland Jr.
published 8 February 2003

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