Hot on the heels of becoming the International Bluegrass Music Awards’ Banjo Player of the Year, Noam Pikelny joined fiddle player Stuart Duncan – who has won numerous IBMA’s in his own right – at the Rockwood Music Hall for an intimate engagement in front of New York’s bluegrass cognoscenti. Pikelny, who now makes his home in Brooklyn along with his Punch Brothers bandmates, has been part of a resurgence of bluegrass in this city that was once a hotbed of activity for the genre.
Last year, as Pikelny was recording Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe (one track of which, plus three other songs, are freely downloadable here), he called upon Duncan. Duncan, who has long been the go-to fiddle player in Nashville, has played on an estimated 800-900 recordings throughout this career. His feeling for the instrument was on full display at Rockwood, and on a fiddle that was formerly owned by Kenny Baker himself no less.
The pared-down duo offered several tunes from that album, along with a host of standards. Duncan delivered terrific vocal performances on the Carter Family’s “Sad and Lonesome Day,” “When Sorrows Encompass Me ‘Round,” and an under-sung Merle Haggard tune, “Loneliness is Eating Me Alive,” among others. Pikelny, for his part, was nothing short of remarkable.
– Eric Russ