October 2005

Now Hear This
Adventure Music America

Much ink has been spilled as to the cementing of jazz into "America's Classical Music," but these arguments neglect the obvious: America already has a homegrown classical music in bluegrass. The idiom and structure of bluegrass have been set in stone for well over a half-century, and most artists in the field are content to color within the lines. It's all the more exhilarating, then, to discover Psychograss' long awaited third album to be a successful experiment in expanding the boundaries of the genre.

Released almost 10 years after the band's sophomore effort, Now Hear This is a fascinating jumble of styles-Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, European classical, rock and swing-that all manage to do-si-do without stepping on each other's feet. The credit for this deft choreography lies with the band; Psychograss' performance is nuanced without pretension, playful but not juvenile. Adventures in tempo (the gradual accelerando at the end of "Looks Like a Duck" takes the piece from ballroom to square dance) and rapid shifts in modulation (notably on the raucous "Scary," which evokes a woodsy chase scene) highlight the imaginative highs of a combo that revels in taking chances. Now Hear This never overreaches or strains, offering a variety of newgrass fusion that is seamless, innovative and masterfully executed.

Originally published in October 2005

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