Russ Barenberg’s new CD, When at Last

[Note: This is a weekend post for the one person who reads this blog who emails me about twice a year to say I should start blogging again about Nashville music that isn’t crap.]

On Tuesday night, I attended a show at my favorite Nashville roadhouse dive/music tabernacle, The Station Inn*. The show kicked off the release of “When at Last,” a new solo recording (his first solo project in almost 20 years) from Russ Barenberg, a guitar virtuoso who is one of the creators and pioneers of a music genre or style once called “the new acoustic movement” of the 1970s. In 1994, Barenberg, Edgar Meyer and Jerry Douglas, released Skip, Hop, Wobble (iTunes link), an album that has influenced an entire generation of “new grass” instrumentalists. As I often tell people who, like me, don’t have an ear for contemporary commercial country music (translation: I don’t enjoy the kind of country music one hears on the radio), Barenberg’s new CD is something altogether different: It’s the kind of Nashville music where, if you just listen, you can easily hear American jazz blended with traditional Celtic, African and European folk music played on instruments originating in Italy and Spain.

As on the new release, during the two-set show on Tuesday, the all-star band surrounding Russ was Viktor Krauss on bass, Jerry Douglas on dobro; Stuart Duncan on fiddle (odd, but I can’t find via Google, his website), Kenny Malone on percussion and a young guitarist whose name I think is Todd Lombardi, although I may have heard it incorrectly. (From his playing, I know his name will soon be well known.)

I posted on Flickr a set of photos shot during a pre-show sound check, including that photo at the beginning of this post. If you are not a hardcore bluegrass fan, I’ll forgive you for not recognizing the incredible talent on that stage. But to give you some idea, Jerry Douglas, the guy on the far-right, is at 12 Grammys and counting. One indication of the level of talent on stage was the talent sitting at tables near me enjoying the show, folks like Ricky Skaggs and Tim O’Brien.

It was a great show and Barenberg’s new CD is long overdue.

*My standard advice to anyone who says, “I’m coming to Nashville, what should I do?” is: “If you are here only one night, at 9 p.m., go to the Station Inn (or earlier to get a good table). I don’t care who’s playing, you’ll thank me for suggesting it.” And they do.

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