Like your music with pinches of different spices all wrapped into a neat little new age package? Darol Anger (violins) and Mike Marshall (guitars, mandolins and mandocello) just might be your guys. Marked by exceptionally talented musicians with an obvious penchant for classical and Far and Middle Eastern sounds/feels, Woodshop is a light (well.... sometimes a tad frenzied) and refreshing undertaking. The CD insert lays out a short narrative of each tune’s origin or inspiration. Neat little touch.
Woodshop was mostly conceived as a 20-year update, according to Anger. It’s a progression from the duo’s 1985 release Chiaroscuro on Windham Hill Records. He says that they wanted to showcase the glorious sound of their string instruments playing music in a space big enough to do it in. Listening to this very artful piece, I’d say they found such a space.
Some might say that tunes like "Who Had Whom," "Borealis" and "The Creep," among others here, are too esoteric to be appreciated by our huge and diverse group of jazz lovers. I’d somewhat disagree. I actually liked the rather mystical goodies offered here. Granted, smooth jazz, it’s not; pop, it’s not. You can’t drop it in a fusion box either. As a showcase of fluidity and style in a new age setting, it clearly finds a home. The addition of classical undertones adds yet more shine to their material.
Don’t get me wrong. This may not be overly esoteric, but you’d want to be in the mood for this. It takes more than just popping it in a CD player and going about house chores on a Saturday morning. This one requires, demands your attention in order to appreciate what is transpiring. There are influences that may escape you at first listen. For example, Anger says of track 10, "Replaceitall" (my favorite, by the way): "Kind of a tribute to the Rolling Stones.... in an acoustic format." Well, at first you’ll hear nothing that even remotely resembles anything by Jagger & Co. Then, all of a sudden, there’s the swagger, the grit, the rock that is the Stones, clearly embedded in this unique interpretation. A must-hear.
Overall, the "new age" classification is, in no way, unique. The music, however, is just that in many ways. I enjoyed the experience.