LOTUS WIGHT – Lotus Wight’s Ode To The Banjo (own label LW001)

Lotus Wight is one third of Sheesham & Lotus & ‘Son, banjo player and inventor of the contrabass harmoniphonium – that’s the fearsome device he’s sporting on the cover. Unlike some of trio’s work this is essentially a serious album and the ode of the title is a poem outlining the history of the instrument that takes up the centre of the package.

The first four tracks are solo banjo pieces. Lotus doesn’t do anything flashy here, although that’s not to say that there isn’t some dextrous picking going on and some foot percussion. You can almost imagine these tunes being played for a square dance or a hoe-down when the requirement is for a steady rhythm for dancing rather than instrumental virtuosity. They’re all good tunes, notably the light and airy ‘Blue Goose’.

The mood abruptly changes with ‘Skillet’, the song by Tim O’Brien, which features the contrabass harmoniphonium for the first time as well as Lotus’ deep gruff voice. He switches back to solo banjo for ‘Cripple Creek’ and then – a complete surprise – plays kalimba (thumb piano) on Josh Thomas’ ‘Roustabout’. His main instrument is a “standard” 5-string banjo but Lotus also plays a gourd banjo and a four-string banjo-mando as well as a fretless model from the 1850s. This is the kind of instrument that he describes in his ode as “to a simple drum someone joined a stick and string”.

The contrabass harmoniphonium appears again on the penultimate ‘Cluck Old Hen’, although I’d hate to meet a hen that clucks in that register, and Lotus returns to the light touch with the closer ‘Leslie-Loo’ and if you can do wistful on a banjo this is how it sounds. This is certainly a virtuoso album but it also succeeds in being entertaining.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: http://lotuswight.com/

‘Skillet’ live: