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    Casey Driessen:


    Tue, 09 May 2006 08:22:24

    Songs from This Album

    "Jerusalem Ridge"

    Album Reviews: 3D by Casey Driessen

    Casey Driessen is to fiddle players what LeBron James is to NBA basketball -- already among the elite in his field, but young enough that he's probably going to keep getting better -- so good, in fact, that he'll probably change the way the game is played. On Driessen's debut solo album, 3D, the 27-year-old Chicago native and Nashville resident brings so much energy, creativity and ingenuity to his instrument and his musical arrangements that it's not even really fair to call what he does bluegrass, although that's clearly the starting point for his music.

    Helping Driessen immensely is the fact that he's already well-respected enough to assemble an all-star cast of supporting players -- dobro and lap steel player Jerry Douglas, singer-songwriters Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott on bouzouki and guitar respectively, bassist Viktor Krauss, drummer Jamey Haddad, and the player Driessen most resembles in style and temperament, legendary banjo player Bela Fleck. Producer Jason Lehning simply could have pressed record and just let these guys jam for an hour and it still would have made for a great album. As it is, the mix of standards and Driessen originals they play here provides an excellent showcase for the talents of all involved.

    Purists beware: Not only does Driessen play a non-traditional five-string violin, he multitracks himself and uses the occasional electronic flourish, as well -- right out of the gate, he starts "Sally in the Garden" with an air-raid siren of processed sounds, as if to scare off anyone who won't embrace his experimental approach. He evens sings on a few tracks, quite convincingly, though producer Lehning wisely mutes the vocals to keep the focus squarely on Driessen's bow. Folks not bothered by studio trickery will be rewarded with breathtaking tracks like a version of Bill Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge" that's just layer upon layer of virtuoso fiddling, and folks not worried about the answer to the question "but is it bluegrass?" will be treated to tasty Driessen originals like "Cliff Dweller's Slide," which thanks Krauss' elastic bass and Haddad's subtly syncopated percussion sounds like a fiddler's version of a Medeski, Martin & Wood tune. It's only May, but it's safe to say that the year's best progressive bluegrass album has already arrived. - Andy Hermann

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