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World Music CD Reviews New Age & Avant Garde

VARIOUS ARTISTS

By MARTY LIPP
Published March 24, 2006

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN
Compass

This collection is subtitled Bluegrass, Newgrass And Beyond, conjuring images of bowdlerized bluegrass with a bent toward the avant-garde. The reality is that the collected music takes bluegrass mainstream by shaking a bit of the hay from its raw, backwoods sound. The music, though excellently produced, is not commercialized and slick. It’s still played meticulously, merging bluegrass with jazz and pop; some tunes even sounding a bit like southern rock. The CD is actually a compilation from the Nashville-based Compass label—featuring one of the label’s founders on several tracks—but that’s not bad news. Founded by banjo player Alison Brown and bassist Garry West, Compass has been a haven for great roots musicians. While several cuts are straightforward instrumental bluegrass well played, just as many include vocals. Overall, the mood is bright and breezy, creating a hypnotic swing throughout. There’s serious playing going on, but that doesn’t stop it from being easygoing fun.