Album Review of

Label: Padiddle

Genres: Bluegrass, Folk

Styles: Progressive Bluegrass, Contemporary Folk, Contemporary Bluegrass

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Written by Joe Ross
November 16, 2020 - 7:19pm EST
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After hearing Wes Corbett perform live at several house concerts within the past six years, I was so happy to hear that the highly innovative contemporary banjo stylist has released Cascade, his debut solo album of original instrumental material. A prodigy trained in classical piano, Corbett took to the banjo in his early teens after hearing Bela Fleck.  He then spent several years playing with creative artists beyond the cutting edge of bluegrass like Jacob Jolliff, Joy Kills Sorrow, Molly Tuttle, and recently as the newest member of the Sam Bush Band. Cascade is an album that spotlights Corbett’s multi-faceted skills as composer, arranger, co-producer and instrumentalist. With a body of work spanning ten years of effort, Corbett redefines the banjo’s role in a contemporary acoustic string setting. I hope that the success of this project encourages him to write even more. While Corbett is fluent in Earl Scruggs’ banjo style, the superior instrumentalist is also impressively virtuosic in other idioms with his single string and chromatic styles. Cascade will appeal to folk, bluegrass, Americana … and jazz fans. Lyrical, fluid, and precisely as artfully clever as he needs to be, Corbett carries on complex musical conversations, full of dynamics and emotional electricity, with his new acoustic friends. Innovators in their own right, we hear Chris Eldridge (guitar), Sierra Hull and Casey Campbell (mandolin), Paul Kowert (bass), Simon Chrisman (hammered dulcimer), and Alex Hargreaves (fiddle). Eldridge, also the album’s producer, is joining Oberlin Conservatory’s faculty to teach courses on American string band music and give private lessons with guitarists and singer-songwriters. Covering many musical moods, Cascade has a highly-charged “Boss Fight,” melodic “The Three Trees,” lively “Camp Sherman,” technically impressive “Sweet Simone,” poignant “Stan Lee,” mellow “Waltz for Courtney,” jaw-dropping “Dinosaur Birthday” and more. It’s an enchanting repertoire, and this album will solidly establish Wes Corbett’s place as one of the most happening, dynamic and engaging banjo-players on the new acoustic music scene today.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)