Although David Grisman and his dawg music have been garnering most of the attention in the New Acoustic Music, there are quite a few others working the style, and guitarist Dan Crary is as good as they come.
His picking is sterling clean, fluid and fleet. Unlike the more innovative Grisman crowd, he's chosen to stand his ground largely in the traditions of bluegrass and folk. Of course, that's particularly rich territory, as his new instrumental album, "Guitar," shows.
Medleys of Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe and Irish dance tunes reflect a starting point for today's acoustic explorations. The Stanley Brothers medley, for instance, embraces "Fling Ding," "Hard Times" and "Daybreak in Dixie" with a raucous mountain energy that drives the tunes close to jazz improvisation. But Crary also explores rags (the sprightly "Cotton Patch Rag"), waltzes (the gorgeous "Sweet Laree") and even classical ("Memories of Mozart," done with a decidedly gypsy heart), all to superb effect.
Two notable points about "Guitar": All the cuts are extended (from four to eight minutes) to provide excellent ensemble and solo opportunities for Crary and company. And that company is exemplary: mandolinist Sam Bush, fiddler Mark O'Connor, banjo player Bela Fleck and bassist T. Michael Coleman, vanguard acoustic musicians all. Picking doesn't come much better than this. DAN CRARY -- "Guitar" (Sugar Hill SH3730). Appearing Friday night at the Birchmere with fiddler Byron Berline and banjo player John Hickman.