Banjo legend Tony Trischka’s latest album is as eclectic as anything he has ever done and perhaps as satisfying as well. The 13-track effort is a showcase for Trischka’s distinctive songwriting, extraordinary musical talents and terrific taste in collaborators. Along for the ride are longtime musical compatriots fiddler Mike Barnett (The Deadly Gentlemen), mandolinist Mike Compton, singer-guitarist Michael Daves and bassist Skip Ward. Also making appearances are Steve Martin, Andy Statman, Russ Barenberg, Noam Pikelny, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Aoife O’Donovan, Abigail Washburn and Larry Campbell, among others.
From a raucous cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Me” to “Promontory Point,” an exhilarating instrumental co-written with Steve Martin, to the lively solo performance of “Swag Bag Rag,” which evokes turn-of-the-century parlor music, Great Big World is a celebration and exploration of the many musical tastes of an inimitable pioneer.
One of the trappings of a project with the scope of Great Big World and indeed, of any album that features this many collaborations, is that the names and ideas can easily overshadow the music. Trischka’s achievement here is to produce an album that is as listenable the hundredth time as it is the first time.
– Eric Russ