Dylan McCarthy’s Lost & Found has deep bluegrass roots. But, ultimately, the album is a wonderful slice of instrumental music.
You know, America’s a weird place that dances with a quickstep, a secure waltz, and, sometimes, a Great Depression stare. America’s a gamble – with no limit, just like the beauty and pathos plucked from a banjo. And this instrumental album mints a melodic coin. This music cuts American sawdust into a tune that warms homes and makes people dance.
“Mosquito’ jumps from the post position with a musical sampler embroidered with a myriad mix of guitar, mandolin, stand-up bass, fiddle, and banjo. The great John Fogerty (more about whom later) wrote a song called ‘Hot Rod Heart’ which rocks on all cylinders and is “puttin’ on the zoom”. This tune is an equal ride with an acoustic “pedal to the metal”. And there’s a really nice gear change at the 1:54 mark where the guitar flat picks a slower pace, a breath is caught, and then the ensemble reenters and races to the finish line.
Enter a Dobro to add to the barn dance mix of fiddle, bass, and flat-picked guitar for the warm autumnal wind of ‘24th Of August’. You know, Brian Eno has Music For Airports and Music For Films. That’s fine. But this album should be called Music For Turbulent Times. It’s lockdown tough right now. And this music sings to a beauty that can stare evil stuff right in the face and still hold a lover’s hand in a night of melodic dance.
‘Polaris’ quells the soul. The heavy violin covers a thoughtful western landscape. Dylan’s mandolin touches a quiet sunset. And then, more dobro, please. America, from time to time, can sing with bountiful introspection. This song is a soundtrack to those rare but lovely Mount Rushmore moments.
A little history: my Midwest American love affair of bluegrass and country began in 1973, while I was saving my odd-job money for the next Mott The Hoople record. But then John Fogerty released his first post Creedence album, The Blue Ridge Rangers, on which he covered songs like Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’, Jimmy Rogers’ ‘California Blues’, and traditional ‘Working On A Building’. Wow! I loved the stuff, even passed on a belated buy of Deep Purple’s Machine Head, and opted instead for Country Gazette’s Don’t Give Up Your Day Job. The country fever persisted with albums by Mason Proffit, Goose Creek Symphony, Seatrain (with Peter Rowen and Richard Greene!), Muleskinner, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Earth Opera, The Dillards, a local band called The Monroe Doctrine, and (even) The Everly Brothers’ album, Pass The Chicken & Listen. And I wore all the leather I could find–fringed pants with matching jacket, and, of course, moccasins. This is what is commonly called “my buckskin period”, which sadly went to the back of my closet with the advent of a new wave of really cool bands like XTC, Wire, The Cure (of course the hefty tab for dry-cleaning all my leather duds didn’t help the cause!).
Well, just recently, I stumbled upon a stash of country stuff at the local thrift shop and had my own revival (thankfully without the urge to return to the land of buckskin!) while listening to Jim and Jennie, IIIrd Time Out, (the very wonderful) Claire Lynch, The Lynn Morris Band, and Uncle Earl (with Abigail Washburn!).
So, Lost & Found hits a really sweet youthful note.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, who is a big fan of the prog band Yes, said, “Dylan’s guitar work is like hearing Steve Howe’s ‘Clap’ extended over thirty minutes.”
I just hear soundtrack music to Walt Whitman’s poem, ‘I Hear America Singing’.
And (to return to the music), ‘The Jamestown Turnaround’ flows with that Mississippi River paddle boat gamble your cares away (almost) ragtime vibe.
“Old Bisbee’ pulses with more of that acoustic “Hot Rod Heart’ up-tempo bluegrass purity, that just happens to hold a flushed hearts poker hand.
Now, ‘The Doldrums’ confuses any certain compass. It spins with weird metaphoric musical construct. It’s a slow dance, with a spooky mandolin. The tune dives, with sharp fiddle oxygen, into a pretty deep ocean filled with pretty deep ocean secrets. This is clever and progressive bluegrass stuff.
The final title song stretches its downhome pallet into a happy heartbeat with an acoustic guitar and sawdust fiddle playing old barn grooves that are now, very new, with very American (ever-reborn) dance floor steps.
I hate to say this, but Robert Frost got it wrong. He wrote, “Two roads diverged in a yellow woods/And sorry I could not travel both”. Well, this record travels those “two roads” and can appeal to the purists who will hear the musicality; but this record also plays to the casual listener who simply wants to hear really nice acoustic traditional music, while perhaps, cooking a gently seasoned meal, and as The Everly Brothers once sang, we “pass the chicken and listen” to very beautiful and very American music, with (to almost quote Phil Collins), No Fringed Buckskin Jacket Required.
Artist’s website: www.dylanmccarthymusic.com