Peter Ostroushko,
The Mando Chronicles
(Red House, 2012)

In common with many exceptional pickers, Peter Ostroushko is not a strong vocalist. Thus the three-disc Mando Chronicles is all instrumental except for some supportive yelps on one rousing dance number. These recordings, all mandolin-based, require no accompanying voice. The playing does all the talking, encompassing emotion, distance and time with a keen eloquence.

The stylistic range, surprisingly and pleasingly wide, spans folk (in international genres), ragtime, jazz and even classical, in each instance with the assurance and command of the master Ostroushko is and long has been, as able as the best of them. Most of the material is newly recorded, and some of it goes back years. Few will be able to discern the difference.

Listeners are likely to be immediately attracted to whatever they find comfortable and familiar (in my case it was the likes of the venerable fiddle tune "Paddy on the Turnpike," which opens the set, and Bill Monroe's "Crossing the Cumberlands"), but when they continue onward into the latter part of the first disc ("Americana") and on to disc two ("Old World") and to three ("Classical & South Americana"), the pleasures only mount.

A Minneapolis musician of Ukrainian heritage (I have known him casually for many years), Ostroushko is among the most technically accomplished of his generation of folk-based musicians. His composing skills have inspired the occasional critic to speak of him in the same breath as Aaron Copland and Antonin Dvorak. To this non-player's ears, Ostroushko's music communicates a nobility that arises from the dignity, precision and intelligence of his approach. The Mando Chronicles is not to be missed.

music review by
Jerome Clark

30 March 2013

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