Alison Brown - The Company You Keep CD
The title of Brown's new studio release The Company You Keep wasoriginally inspired by the words of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (DonQuixote): "Tell me the company you keep and I'll tell you what you are."But it wasn't until the project began to develop that Brown realized the titleactually held two separate, but equally important, meanings for her and for hermusic. "I've been writing, recording and performing my own tunes for nearly 20years now," Brown reflects. "And as I thought about the progression of my sound- our band sound - I began to think about what a collaborative effort thismusical journey has been. After 15 years of recording, performing andphilosophizing about music with (pianist) John R Burr and (bassist) Garry West,I really wanted to draw that collaborative spirit to the forefront on thisalbum." The Company You Keep features the musicians she has spent most ofthe past 15 years performing with: John R. Burr (piano), Garry West (bass),David Grisman Quintet alum Joe Craven (fiddle/mandolin/percussion) and LarryAtamanuik (drums) alongside guests John Doyle (guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle)and Kenny Malone (drums) on a set of engaging, upbeat and melodic tunes, many ofwhich were co-written by Brown and Burr.
The Company You Keep opens with "Crazy Ivan," a minor hoe-down withan enigmatic odd meter intro. It's a great example of the interplay of thebanjo and piano. "I came up with the intro figure on the banjo but when John Rplayed it on the piano it had a lot more power. So, even though the signaturemelodic idea of the tune was written on the banjo, the banjo never actuallyplays the hook figure."
The band offers its own take on a version of piano accordion virtuoso MairtinO'Connor's The Road West. "I have been a fan of Mairtin's since we metat the Roisin Dubh in Galway several years ago. He gave me a copy of his latestrecord and I loved that tune from the first time I heard it. He recorded it inBb and it was challenging to get that pianistic melody to lay right on thebanjo. But we had a great time stretching out on our own arrangement which windsits way through 3 modulations for solos before returning to the head. Addingimprovisation sections brought a very non-Irish approach to the tune but I feltlike we really gave it our own twist."
The fifth track, "Under the Wire" is probably the most bluegrassy tune onthe album and the first - and last - tune the band recorded for the album."We cut a version of that tune on our first session but as we opened it uplive it really took on majestic sort of Western feel and we just had to re-cutit. I really like the stately sound of the piano playing what's essentially abanjo melody on the repeat of the head. I think it gives a wonderful elegance tothe tune."
According to Brown, The Company You Keep is also a tip of the hat to herapproach to business as one of the co-founders of the Compass Records Group. "Ico-founded Compass with Garry West the same year that I began touring with myown band so the label and the band have grown up in tandem, even though I didn'trelease an album on Compass until 1998." At a time when the record business isbeing turned upside down, the Compass Records Group has continued to grow andtoday boasts nearly 600 releases across the Compass, Green Linnet and MulliganRecords catalogs. "Our artistic aesthetic is very well described by the ideathat the company we've built and sustain (both in our roster and our staff)reflects our values and musical priorities. We take a very long tail approach toour business and feel a great sense of pride in having built a business modelthat is scaled to be successful with records that may only sell a few thousandunits. Some of our smallest records say more about us as a label than ourbiggest selling records do."
1) Crazy Ivan
2) Rocket Summer
3) The Road West
4) Drawing Down The Moon
5) Under The (Five) Wire
6) Rain Or Shine
7) Over Nine Waves
8) Forky On The Water
9) The Clean Plate Club
10) Waltz For Mr. B
Release date 3/3/2009.