I have just returned to Ireland after showcasing my own material in Raleigh, NC, at IBMA. I also got to hear about a hundred other bands, and my head is still ringing in the key of “G”, after hearing so many versions of “Goldrush” and “Clinch Mountain Backstep.”
Wonderful and all as these Classic Bluegrass tunes are, it's refreshing to get to listen to a Bluegrass CD that is comprised of fifteen original songs, in a great variety of different keys, and sung by a man in what could be fairly described as a 'non-Bluegrass' voice.
Si Kahn is a legend in songwriting circles, and is probably best known, certainly in Europe, for his classic, “Aragon Mill,” which seems to have been around for so long, that many knowledgeable folks around these parts consider it to be an old Traditional song. This is a kind of reverse compliment in one way, but not one, I'm fairly sure, that appeals to Mr. Kahn, or his performing rights society/publisher, in this case, Conexion-media.com, when it comes to the collection of royalties. But that's another story.
That song, “Aragon Mill,” forms the centerpiece of this fine album, an all-too familiar tale of Industry closing down and putting skilled craftspeople out of work. The irony in this song is that it still rings so true today, and in every part of the globe, with the possible exception of China.
Si Kahn has re-cut the song here with the assistance of one of Europe's finest Bluegrass bands, the Looping Brothers, and they really shine! Ulli Sieker has to be one of the finest and most experienced mandolin players outside the USA, [ he also plays Fiddle ] and he has been a performing and founding member of many of Germany's best Bluegrass outfits over the past 35 years.
Matthias Malcher is a fellow German, and a true master of Scruggs-style 5-string banjo, who also demonstrates his clear, driving tone and style to great effect here. I daresay that if I did not know that these guys were not born and raised somewhere below the Mason-Dixon line, I would be hard pressed to distinguish between their precise picking, and that of any outfit from around Galax, VA; Shelby, NC; or KY.
This CD also represents great value, with fifteen tracks in all, standouts being the aforementioned “Aragon Mill,” another great factory/work song called “Five Days a Week,” “Tarpaper Shacks,” “To Hear Doc Watson Play” [ a tribute to the legendary Deep Gap guitar maestro ] and a beautiful song called “Wild Rose Of The Mountain” [ Not to be confused with the J.P. Fraley song of the same name ].
I also had the good fortune to hear Si and the Looping Brothers play a showcase in Raleigh, and I recommend that you catch them live when they visit your area.
In the sleeve notes, Si himself encourages other bands to check out these songs as a possible source of new material, and I would encourage folks to do likewise. Yes, it's wonderful to hear so many young bands play the classics, but it's also essential to keep bringing new material to a wider audience. Bill Monroe himself was always experimenting with his Music, and introducing new material, and that's always worth bearing in mind.
Laurie Lewis sings Si Kahn's praises in the very comprehensive sleeve notes, and concludes by saying, and I quote, 'Si and his songs are jewels here on Earth'. I couldn't agree more.
Points awarded out of ten....eight  Niall Toner, October, 2013.