In a series of beautifully crafted albums, acoustic guitarist, composer and GRAMMY nominee Russ Barenberg has created an "exquisitely original" and enduring body of work that joyously integrates bluegrass, jazz, and American/Celtic fiddle and dance traditions. His latest release, When at Last, which also features Russ's sparkling mandolin playing, was nominated for a GRAMMY for "Best Country Instrumental Performance" and for the International Bluegrass Music Association "Instrumental Album of the Year" award. (Read more about When at Last below.)
Long at the forefront of the acoustic music scene with his own albums, Russ has also been tapped for collaborations by many of the genre's finest artists, including Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Mark O'Connor and legendary jazz bassist, Charlie Haden. Skip, Hop & Wobble, the award-winning 1993 release by his long-time trio with Dobro master Jerry Douglas and acoustic bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, influenced an entire generation of musicians.
Along with millions of other viewers, you were likely moved by Russ's emotional rendering of "Ashokan Farewell," the main soundtrack theme in Ken Burns' masterpiece, The Civil War. And viewers in the UK and Europe have gotten to know Russ over the last 19 years as both a member of he house band and a featured artist on the acclaimed BBC Television music programs, The Transatlantic Sessions.
2008 found Russ in the studio with legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden on his new CD, Rambling Boy, with actor Steve Martin on his banjo CD, The Crow, and with the great singer and songwriter, Jesse Winchester, on his latest recording, Love Filling Station.
Russ was in Scotland again in March, 2013, working on The Transatlantic Sessions 6, this series featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain, July Fowlis, Maura O'Connell, Tim O'Brien and many other great performers. Check out this video of Russs "The Drummers of England" (a tune also recorded on When at Last) as performed on one of the shows from The Transatlantic Sessions 3, from 2007. Also playing on the tune are Aly Bain on fiddle, Phil Cunningham on accordion, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Todd Parks on bass and James MacIntosh on percussion. Many other performances form the shows, some dating back to the first series in 1994, can be seen on YouTube.
When at Last--Available at Russ's online store!
Click here to listen and read reviews
"It's been way too long since guitarist Russ Barenberg made a solo albumtoo long, even, since he teamed up with resophonic guitarist Jerry Douglas and bassist Edgar Meyer on the memorable Skip, Hop & Wobble. But the longtime Nashville resident has been quietly building up a stock of great original tunes, polishing his skills and deepening his musicality. When At Last offers up the results in a sweet, satisfying collection that pushes melody, lyricism and groove over gee-whiz licks." - Nashville Scene
Featuring special guests Dennis Crouch, Ruthie Dornfeld, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Viktor Krauss, Kenny Malone and Jeremiah McLane.
Guitar aficionados may be ready to hail the new display of virtuosity on Russ Barenberg's When At Last, but for the legendary guitarist himself, the value of the collection is somewhat different. What I maybe have to bring to the world, he says with a kind of wry deliberation, is some good tunes.
Of course, When At Last does, indeed, showcase subtle, compelling musicianshipand not only from Barenberg, but also from the carefully chosen crew of players who accompany himyet the point is well-taken. In a world filled with guitarists renowned for technique, Russ Barenberg has always stood out for his intensely melodic approach to playing and writing, and the new album shows that the years since he, resonator guitarist Jerry Douglas and string bass maestro Edgar Meyer made the widely acclaimed, supremely influential Skip, Hop & Wobble have only deepened his musicality.
Leading off with the taut groove of Little Monk, the set winds its way through bluegrass, Celtic and contradance-flavored tunes that frame Barenbergs lyricism and rhythmic subtleties in intricate ensembles that feature long-time friends and collaborators. Douglas, fiddle giant Stuart Duncan and percussionist Kenny Malone, who appeared on Barenbergs last solo album, Moving Pictures, are back for the ride, while the bottom end is held down by Viktor Krauss and Dennis Crouch.on acoustic bass.
Less familiar contributors turn up too and add a delightful new flavor to the work. Ruthie Dornfeld is just a fantastic musician, Barenberg notes. I played a lot of contra dances with her up around Boston in the early 80s. Shes a great dance fiddler, but she does a lot of other things too and she has a great feel and rhythmic sense; she plays a lot of traditional music and understands it really well. And Jeremiah McLane is a very fine accordion and piano player from Vermont who plays in a wonderful trio called Nightingale; theyre one of my favorite bands.
Still, while ensemble interplay is the foundation of When At Last, its heart and soul ultimately is to be found in Barenbergs tunessome dating back to the early 90s, others composed shortly before recording beganand in his glistening playing. Few guitarists so perfectly blend a mastery of roots music traditions with melodic originality, or so finely balance muscularity with delicacy, and each moment of the album is shaped by these artistic dualitiesand by Barenbergs newfound energy and re-dedication to making music central to his life. Im at a point in my life now where I really appreciate what a gift it is to be a musician.--Jon Weisberger
Skype Lessons with Russ! Take live private lessons with Russ on your computer using Skype. Write to Russ at [email protected] to request more info.
And be sure to visit Russ's Digital Store, where you can buy PDF files of sheet music and tablature for his music. Now in the Digital Store--Clarence White Guitar, reissue of Russ's classic study of Clarence's playing orginally published by Oak Publications in 1978.