The Mandolin Chronicles

Alan Bibey & Wayne Benson

Pinecastle, 2013

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson are two names that aficionados of bluegrass music may know well. Both have been in top tier groups for the last several years, and both have served time in the powerhouse group IIIrd Tyme Out. On The Mandolin Chronicles, they come together to pay tribute to the instrument, which, along with the banjo, defines bluegrass and traditional mountain music. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Somehow in the 19th century, the mandolin transformed from an Italian instrument used in classical music to a folk instrument that was imported into the Appalachian region of the United States. Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-style mandolin has dominated the preference among bluegrass musicians for decades.  But the instrument is a bit finicky. They are difficult to make, and have intonation issues that are not readily apparent when one instrument is played within a band. However, when two or more mandolins play in concert, those intonation idiosyncrasies compound. With Bibey and Benson’s effort, these quirks are noticeable from the very first track, “Owensboro Train,” and go on from there. Listeners with perfect pitch, beware.

The Mandolin Chronicles exhibit a “dueling mandolins” theme throughout, with instrumentals ranging from jazz with “Black Friday,” to jovial bluegrass with “Pilgrim’s Knob,” to the beautiful “Waltz For Pamela.” All of these showcase the deft abilities of each mandolinist but jolt unevenly from style to style. Inscrutably, there is one vocal track on the album, placed right smack in the middle of all the instrumental tracks. The tune, “Another Night” is a straight bluegrass ballad, which is sung by IIIrd Tyme Out’s lead vocalist Russell Moore. The song is great, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of all the instrumentals and might have been better served on a IIIrd Tyme Out album.

If you like the mandolin, then you may like this album. But really it fills a niche interest and could have been produced better considering the talent being showcased.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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