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Stolen Moments
Artist: Alison Brown
Label; Compass Records 
Length: 11 tracks/
The latest recording from Alison Brown amply demonstrates the variety of her talents. In addition to being an outstanding banjo player, she is a first-class songwriter, writing all or part of seven of the tunes on the disc. She and her husband, bass player Gary West, co-founded and run the Compass label. Another measure of her talent is how she easily holds her own instrumentally with likes of guests Sam Bush on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and John Doyle on guitar.
This recording also features various friends on vocals on four tracks. The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, lend their gorgeous vocal harmonies to stirring version of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound.” Beth Nielsen Chapman adds a moving lead vocal on “Angel,” the well-known Hendrix composition. She gets some vocal help from Andrea Zonn, who impresses with her own lead on the folk song “One Morning in May.” Brown adds a harmony vocal and switches to guitar on this track. “Prayer Wheel” features the Boomchicks, with Brown, Zonn, and Mary Chapin Carpenter joining forces for a wonderful performance.
But the real reason to listen to Brown’s work is the stunning instrumental virtuosity on every track. Some might consider Brown’s songs to be progressive bluegrass. Others would say that the music can’t be bluegrass because of the presence of pianist John R. Burr. No matter what you want to label the music, Brown and her friends constantly amaze with taste and exuberance in their playing. On “(I’m Naked and I’m) Going to Glasgow” Brown, Bush, Zonn and Burr use the four song medley to take turns executing rapid-fire licks as the piece evolves through a series of tempo changes. 
Another original, “Carrowkeel,” features Seamus Eagan on the low whistle on a tune inspired by the burial tombs near Sligo, Ireland. One section has a brief delicate duet between Brown and Burr – then Duncan’s fiddle joins in for a beautiful musical passage. Bush and Duncan shine on a sprightly romp through “The Magnificent Seven” before Brown answers with an inventive solo of her own. Burr contributes a dazzling fleet-fingered solo as well. On “Musette for a Palindrome,” Mike Marshall on mandolin joins Brown to weave an intricate instrumental conversation that brings the recording to satisfying close.
Alison Brown has fashioned yet another first-class package of music that reflects her many talents and interests. The contributions from her musical friends add variety and excellence to this recording that deserves a listen from discerning listeners.
Mark Thompson


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