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CATHY FINK "Banjo Talkin' " Rounder VARIOUS ARTISTS "Old Time Banjo Festival" Rounder

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Friday, July 6, 2007

CATHY FINK"Banjo Talkin' "RounderVARIOUS ARTISTS"Old Time Banjo Festival"Rounder

LOOKS LIKE MULTIPLE Grammy and Wammy winner Cathy Fink may have to make some additional room on her trophy shelf the next time votes are tallied. If so, the banjoist-composer will have an awfully crowded list of artists to thank.

Starting with longtime collaborator Marcy Marxer, whose contributions on cello and ukulele banjos help make "Banjo Talkin' " the colorful delight it is. Then there are banjoists Chris Coole, Adam Hurt and Tony Trischka to consider. Certainly among the album's biggest treats is listening to Trischka and Fink fashion a vibrant, plucked-and-frailed arrangement of "Banjo Pickin' Girl."

Likewise, fiddlers Jane Rothfield and Bruce Molsky leave a strong impression. Rothfield adds sparks and drive to "Ishikawa," a Fink-penned burner dedicated to a "blues guitar-playing Buddhist priest," while Molsky is the propulsive force behind Fink's take on "North Carolina Breakdown." True to form, Fink also draws inspiration from musicians and tunesmiths long or recently deceased: Stephen Foster, Dock Boggs, Sara Martin, Stringbean (a.k.a. David Akeman) and John Hartford among them. But not only is Fink in splendid company on "Banjo Talkin'," she consistently makes the most of it.

"Old Time Banjo Festival" qualifies as a flat-out embarrassment of riches for listeners drawn to the sound of the "half-barbaric twang." All told, 21 banjoists are featured on this 31-track compilation, including Mike Seeger, Reed Martin, Laura Boosinger and David Holt. Produced by Fink and Marxer and inspired by "The Old Time Banjo Project," a landmark recording released during the '60s folk revival, the album is not entirely devoted to traditional pieces. Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" makes the cut, for instance. But the focus is on deeply rooted tunes that reveal African and Appalachian cultural ties.

Seeger displays his wonderfully evocative touch on "I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow" while paying tribute to the late Ola Belle Reed in the bargain, and Kate Brett's clawhammer work on "Wild Horses at Stoney Point" is a similarly era-shifting highlight. There are numerous performances here that warrant mention and invite repeat listenings.

-- Mike Joyce

The Old Time Banjo Festival, featuring Mike Seeger, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, David Holt and more, is Sunday at the Birchmere.

Listen to an audio clip of Cathy Fink.

Listen to an audio clip of Old Time Banjo Festival.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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