VA – Masters Of The Banjo (1994)
Collecting live performances from the Masters of the Banjo tour from the early 1990s, an impressive audio history of the banjo is provided by way of 26 performances by 11 different artists. Everything from Seleshe Damessae’s performances on African krar, an ancient precursor to the modern banjo, to Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass workouts is represented, with a large number of the samples coming from a Celtic tradition, as well. Kirk Sutphin, from the legendary Sutphin family, provides fine examples of early American banjo tradition, using claw hammer style in “John Brown’s Dream” and a rollicking string band tune in “Let Me Fall.” Multi-talented Tony Ellis contributes four of his amazingly intricate original compositions, representing the progression of the instrument from primarily being dance accompaniment to something altogether more pensive. Irish tenor banjo workouts by Seamus Egan show a strong influence of Irish uilleann pipes, as he embraces both traditional and contemporary styles. Carroll Best’s unique three-finger style and Will Keys’ two-finger up-picking style are extraordinary examples of how differently the instrument has developed even from region to region in the southern United States. All in all, you have a concise, though certainly not complete, history of the progression of the banjo that does a fine job showing the past, present, and future of the instrument.