The Banjo as Talisman
Forget what preconceptions you may have regarding the banjo and the ‘usual’ place it may occupy in an ensemble, which for many would mean Bluegrass. Woody Simmons banjoRAMA breaks with convention, yet at the same time remains true to tradition. Simmons referred to this unique recording as “easy listening banjo music”. I beg to differ. Sure, there is the hauntingly melodious Door to the Infinite, and the lilting Sally Walks the Dog, but there is also the tactile work over of Suite for Wings, Cowboy Raga’s slow churn to burn, and the exhilarating Firefly, which builds to a mind smacking climax.
Playing an open back banjo of some age, Woody coaxes a wondrous array of voices from her instrument. Using a mixture of clawhammer or frailing, with fingerpicking, she paints pictures of the past, yet at the same time firmly rooted in the present. What makes this all the more striking to me is the arc of time of the recordings; from 1977 to 2001. Being aware of the time frame, at times I felt as though I was experiencing pages from a creative journal.
The choice of instrumentation frames Woody’s beautiful arrangements; tabla, tamboura, synthesizer, saxophone, and guitar, add the “outer layer” allowing her to fly. At once organic and ethereal, banjoRAMA is a testament to the quality of music making from the spirit. Make no mistake; this is life affirming music, both joyous and contemplative.
Here is music for the head and body, aurally rich, meditative, both sinuous and sensual, the call of Woody’s banjo ranging from plaintive to a bark from the heart.
Whether you like old timey music, new acoustic, or new age (though banjoRAMA, in my opinion, is miles away from that genre), you will find a treasure in Woody Simmons banjoRAMA, don’t even hesitate.