Hootenanny Review

Victory Music Review
David Grier with Tim O’Brien and Dirk Powell

A simple and delightful recording! Eleven tunes performed by Grier on guitar, with Tim O’Brien and Dirk Powell, playing assorted banjos, fiddles, accordion, bass, mandolin and bouzouki, with no obvious overdubs. All of these are instrumentals, except for “Little Rabbit”, with a vocal by Tim, and “Lonnie and Maybelle”, one of three compositions of David’s, which features a dubious scat vocal, also by Tim. Most of the other tunes are public domain, such as “Ragtime Annie”, and “Red Haired Boy”. Two of my favorite Joes, “Old Joe Clark”, and “Have You Ever Seen the Devil, Uncle Joe” are there also. My favorites, however, are the Grier tunes, especially the beautiful “Cascade”. Grier is an extraordinary, sensitive flatpicker; he has chosen his companions well, and his arrangements are tasteful and show off the music well, whether they are contemporary or the old favorites. Good listening!

-Ted Briggs-Comstock, Victory Music Review, December 1999

Bluegrass Canada Review
David Grier with Tim O’Brien and Dirk Powell

The casual shopper may dismiss this project as a rehash of some standard material. The more astute shopper that is acquainted with the innovative surprises and musical genius that lie within any David Grier recording will snap it up.

David puts a new pair of shoes on Old Joe Clark and takes him a stroll, and it works out very nicely. Tim O’Brien is assisting on all cuts in a vocal or instrumental capacity with his trademark bouzouki (No, not the weapon that you shoot at tanks!).  Tim also does his usual fine performance on fiddle and mandolin. Ragtime Annie is sporting a new dress as David and crew add a few new twists to this and the other time-tested standards on the project.
We’re also treated to several David Grier originals. I really like Have You Ever Been To England. Check out the great old-time banjo styling of Dirk Powell. Dirk also plays accordion, fiddle, and bass on the album. Talented guy! Lonnie and Maybelle, another Grier creation, is a wonderful jazzy little tune enhanced by the scat singing of Tim “Satchmo” O’Brien. Cascade is another winner for David.

High Dad in the Morning is a composition by the patriarch of the Dillards and takes on a Cajun flavor with the insertion of the accordion. The Red Haired Boy is sporting a ponytail and gold earring. Proving once again that time-tested evergreens can be tastefully arranged and given a new spin without losing the basic elements of the tune.

Little Rabbit is a great arrangement of an old tune, and is the only track with vocals, that is, vocals I can understand. Scat is like Ebonics to my untrained ears. Have You Ever Seen The Devil Uncle Joe and Lonesome Road Blues are cuts that really showcase the David Grier mastery of the guitar.

Hootenanny is a word that came about in the 60’s to define a folk music gathering. This project is a very pleasant listenable, effort by creative and talented musicians that deserve your attention, so don’t be waiting around for the next folk revival before you add a copy to your listening library.  

Larry Robinson, Bluegrass Canada January/February 1999

Rural Route Review
David Grier with Tim O’Brien and Dirk Powell

Imagine sitting in your living room, playing music with two old friends and suddenly you find yourself are in the groove, in the pocket. Every lick you play is on the note; your companions are there, too, matching your rhythm perfectly. It goes on for hours and you are stunned and amazed. Then you wish that you had recorded it.

Well, that’s what David Grier set out to do with “Hootenanny” and the result is eleven great cuts beginning with the classic Little Rabbit featuring Tim O’Brien’s flawless vocals, and ending with Lonesome Road Blues. In between are some fine renditions of Ragtime Annie, High Dad In The Morning, Red Haired Boy and Old Joe Clark.

What is most enjoyable about this CD is that you can sense these three artists thoroughly enjoy what they do and there is an infectiousness about their enthusiasm. There are no special effects, no wah-wahs or electronic wizardry, just three guys and their instruments genuinely happy to be playing these great songs together.

Listen to Tim O’Brien on Lonnie and Maybelle and you can sense the smiles on all their faces as he scats while Grier and Powell play on. I just wish I had been a fly on the wall for these “unrehearsed” recordings.

I rate this CD three and a half bottle caps.

Doc, Rural Route

All Music Guide
by Ronnie Lankford, Jr.
1998 Dreadnought Records (#9801)
Tunes: Rabbit, Ragtime Annie, Have You Ever Been To England, High Dad In The Morning, Lonnie and Maybelle, Red Haired Boy, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Have You Ever Seen The Devil, Uncle Joe, Cascade, Old Joe Clark, Lonesome Road Blues

In the 1950s, college students who were caught up in the folk boom attended gatherings where they played acoustic instruments and sang. These "hootenannies" were informal and non-professional. Guitarist David Grier decided to have his own little get together with multiple instrumentalists Tim O'Brien and Dirk Powell on Hootenanny. Recorded over a four day period, this album has the loose feel of a few friends hanging out and doing their own thing. The only difference here is that these musicians are professionals, and even when they're just fooling around, they sound great. A lot of room is left on cuts like "Have You Ever Been to England" for the individual players to cut loose and show off their instrumental skill. Grier, as always, is an endlessly inventive and tasteful soloist, and he seems comfortable whether playing blues as in "Lonnie and Maybelle" or jazz in "Ragtime Annie." As on his previous albums, he shares solo space equally with his guests. A multitude of instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, and accordion, are utilized on different tracks to create a rich texture within the context of traditional music. There are a couple of throwaway vocals by O'Brien, one -- "Lonnie and Maybelle" -- that includes scat singing. The tunes penned by Grier, "Red Haired Boy" and "Cascade," fit comfortably with the traditional ones like "Lonesome Road Blues." Hootenanny's approach is more casual, off-the-cuff, than his previous recordings for Rounder, and perhaps that is why it was released on his own label, Dreadnought. Fans of Grier, Powell, and O'Brien should enjoy this set, as should any of lover of good, acoustic music.


Review - Hootenanny

David Grier has long been a monster of bluegrass guitar. But when luminaries Tim O'Brien and Balfa Toujours' Dirk Powell join in, the stage is set for a monster of a barn dance. Unlike the glossy bluegrass stylings of Grier's previous release, Panorama, the trio mines an old-timey vein for an intimate back porch encounter. O'Brien drives on fiddle or dances on mandolin while Powell keeps it rhythmically straight on clawhammer banjo and bass. On "High Dad in the Morning,"  Powell mystifyingly blends the Cajun accordion into the old-timey feel and takes "Red Haired Boy" closer to its Cajun-Celtic bloodlines. Throughout it all, Grier's peerless flatpicking makes it seem easy. His unpretentious solos are quite affecting and impeccably precise. O'Brien attempts some light-hearted scat vocals on the bluesy "Lonnie and Maybell," which trails off in laughter. The title doesn't lie, it's all a hoot.

(DW) Dirty Linen

Review - Hootenanny

I hit stop, took off my headphones, and thought, "How many different styles did I hear?" and then, "I must listen to the guitar work once more, and once more, etc." To the first rumination: at least 4 styles. Old time, bluegrass, Celtic and jazz are fundamentally represented. Their sub-styles and cross-overs are too numerous to mention. To the second rumination: Grier plays guitar as if it came with him out of the womb. The grace with which he plays lead and backup is made evident in balanced force and precise collaboration. Tim O'Brien and Dirk Powell furnish well grounded and tasteful mandolin, fiddle and banjo (3 finger and clawhammer). Here are 3 gentlemen who would seem to have been working together for a very long time.

Matthew Seigel

Bluegrass Music News
By Steve Romanoski

We've all come to know David Grier as a guitarist whose artistic cup overflows with ability and have  marveled at the technical genius of his recordings. Hootenanny takes Grier away from the high end production that surrounds his performances for Rounder and sets him into a far more intimate setting. The result is that the listener is provided with a glimpse of this exceptional artist at a far more accessible level.

For the uninformed, a "hootenanny" was a term that folkies used as a way to describe their informal jam sessions. The mood of Grier's Hootenanny is generally informal although it it presents performances that match the intensity that the guitarist demonstrated in his earlier works. This gives us the opportunity to hear Grier open up as an instrumentalist who excels on accompaniment as well as soloing. Thus, in a tune like "Ragtime Annie" the listener is treated to an old-timey melodic approach rather than the high-tech solos Grier might have done before. And we discover that David's playing is just as impressive in this mode and every bit as inventive. The solos on "Ragtime Annie" lack the flash but gain in approach. One solo in particular sent me scurrying to the notes to see who was playing bass. Then I discovered that David was working out a staccato solo on the low end of the guitar. Later Grier experiments with "Red Haired Boy" creating a darker feel with a melodic line set against Dirk Powell's droning accordion. The tune picks up speed as the performance proceeds but maintains the melancholy aura. But if you go beyond the mood, which is a task, you'll hear some exceptional technique applied to this new approach of an old war-horse. Then, there's the guitar driven version of "Clinch Mountain Backstep."  Again Grier alters the pace and lets the ensemble change gears. But this interpretation is harsher and more toward  the lonesome end of the spectrum than the versions you're used to hearing around the bluegrass circuit.

But Grier hasn't lost his desire to jam out a barn burner as demonstrated in "Have You  Ever Seen The Devil Uncle Joe" or"Lonesome Road Blues." The former has guitar work that's dazzling, yet down to Earth. But the finale' hits new frontiers in jamology. O'Brien's bouzouki, Powell's fiddle and Grier's guitar all attack the melody full force and come to an end with a simple lone guitar lick. It's a wonderful effect that drives the point home.

Grier's presence as a composer is less noticeable on this recording although one of his works should be considered as the high point in the mix. "Cascade"is a lush tune that exemplifies the depth of David Grier's art. This is one of those melodies that keeps you coming back for more. It never goes out on a limb or strays too far from the melody, yet the structure is full of amazing work. O'Brien and Powell provide stellar performances on this one as well, but the spotlight always returns to Grier.

With Hootenanny, you'll still be blown away by David Grier's ability. But you'll also witness a player who can create outside of large superstar aggregations in forms of music that are all too often mislabeled as simpler styles. Hootenanny brightens David Grier's star in my book.

Steve Romanoski - Bluegrass Music News Fall 1998