Alan Ames’s new CD “Fantasy Folk From the Other Side” is a breath of fresh air to the classical music community.... oops, I mean the blues scene..... oops, I mean the bluegrass..... oops. Is this classical music on a dobro, or just new classical music? Either way, Alan classically composes music with a blues, bluegrass, folk, or jazz themes for a dobro, or lap steel guitar. (All of his guitars have the strings raised and he plays notes with a ‘steel’ bar.) He often uses instruments found in chamber music, but even his solo dobro compositions are more like sonatas than folk songs.
What makes this music so fresh is that none of the other classical music fusions use a dobro, or are so heavily blues influenced.
Possibly the showcase piece would be the three movement Serenade Suite for oboe and dobro. The themes are very reminiscent of the French impressionists Ravel or Satie, but the emotional content seems injected with some crying blues guitar, or sea gulls.
Of the four vocal pieces, “Mist in the Mountains” uses a bass line lifted from Bach’s “Air on a G-string”, and has a stately feel created by the pedal steel guitar’s arpeggios. This is punctuated by a very bluesy National steel guitar solo.
The opening piece, “Gotta Baby” is a jump blues instrumental in the vein of the Dixie Dregs. He uses Don Corey on the bass fiddle.
Possibly the biggest contrast is a bluegrass flavored tune “Where is the Moon”, featuring guitarist and producer, Mark Pickett. It seems like an attempt at a classic folk song like “Buffalo Gals” or “Froggy Went a Courtin’”.
When I asked Alan what his influences were, he said, “I do not think about it when I create, but when I go back and listen, I can definitely hear some of my biggest heroes, like Jimi Hendrix, Dave Bruebeck, and Maurice Ravel. I guess the variety comes from the fact that I have many musical heroes.”
Variety is a definitely hallmark: there is a tango, a folk ballad about environmental and financial pillage of poor people, improvisational spacey-distorted slide guitar. and more.
From any angle, this is an CD of fresh new music with fathoms of emotions to move you.