Panorama (David Grier)

David Grier
Rounder CD 0417

David Grier continues to define the state of the art for guitar players in the 90s. On Panorama, he stretches beyond the bounds of straight, hard-driving bluegrass into acoustic jazz and beyond. But he does this with an uncanny knack for keeping true to the melodic nature of the instrument.

It’s this ability which sets Grier apart from other guitar players. His bag of tricks works around the melodies in every type of music. Unlike many fast and showy guitar players, Grier rarely resorts to machine-gun runs and chromatic licks. From the quietly haunting Jeff Davis to the acoustic jazz King Wilkies Run, from the bluesy guitar and bass duet The Skeleton to the melodic Chinquapin Hunting and the funky Apples and Oranges, Grier plays with taste, timing and control. His imaginative phrasing and impeccable precision will stretch the minds of guitar players everywhere.

The more traditional flatpicking on Panorama catches my ear the most. Impulsive is an all-out bluegrass breakdown. Forked Deer reminds me of the very early guitar recordings of Dan Crary - clean, catchy and true to the melody, while the old-timey medley of Peartree and Double File pays worthy tribute to the Granddaddy of all flatpickers, Doc Watson.

I suspect it might well be impossible to make a bad recording with a supporting cast like the array of bluegrass all-stars here – Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Sam Bush and Mike Compton on mandolin, Bob Carlin and Craig Smith on banjo and Todd Phillips on bass. Then again, Grier is one of those bluegrass all-stars himself, and with Panorama, justifies every accolade afforded him. Worth of special mention is the stellar mandolin work Sam Bush gives us on tunes like Dead End.

If I have any criticism at all, it’s that some of the jazzier tunes are too long and lose focus. Then again, a lot of jazz is that way. Still, it’s a minor point when the playing is this good. If your taste runs to the very best in instrumental guitar work, then "Panorama" is for you. Strongly recommended.

(Rounder Records Corp., One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140)
Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, April 1998. Used with permission.