In bluegrass, speed thrills. Nothing gets a rise out of a crowd faster than a musician's fingers hurtling over the frets at a break- string clip.
Banjo-player Tony Trischka has displayed extraordinary speed and dexterity on three solo albums so far, but now that he's a member of the quintet Skyline, those skills don't seem all that important anymore. Trischka has become part of a greater whole -- a band more interested in making music than in sprinting.
Not that Trischka's following will find his playing stifled on the group's first album, "Late to Work." Trischka's instrumental prowess is evident throughout, beginning with "Vanished / Don't Cry Tex," in which Trischka and lead guitarist Danny Weiss weave together dancing melodic lines before shifting the tempo into high gear for Barry Mitterhoff's accelerated entrance on the mandolin.
But no one dominates this album. Rhythm guitarist Dede Wyland has a lovely voice, somewhat reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, and she and Weiss construct winning harmonies on several cuts, especially Willie Nelson's "Just Pretend" and Weiss' "Illinois Dawn."
Skyline isn't a one-man band nor is it easy to pigeonhole. It's progressive in its risk-taking, traditional in its influences and contemporary in its choice of material. More than anything else, it offers listeners a lot more than just fleet-fingered runs for their money. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM SKYLINE -- Late to Work (Flying Fish 261). THE SHOW SKYLINE -- Friday at 8:30 and 10:30 at the Birchmere.