ON "Dawg '90," mandolinist David Grisman has returned to an all-acoustic lineup with a near all-star cast, including guitarist John Carlini and fiddlers Mark O'Connor and Matt Glaser. Only one track on the album -- "Hot Club Swing" -- purposely evokes the kind of fluid and warmhearted jazz collaborations Grisman and Stephane Grappelli once engaged in, but almost every cut radiates a similarly sunny mood, especially whenever the fiddles share the spotlight.
Once again Grisman has managed to broaden the scope of his Dawg music, that curious mandolin-driven blend of bluegrass, jazz and new acoustic music, in fresh and imaginative ways. Additional emphasis has been placed on percussion (augmenting the familiar clipped mandolin and guitar rhythms) and a flute now heightens the Third World colors and melodies, expanding the thematic terrain considerably.
Even so, the writing retains a certain familiar charm. The tunes, all composed by Grisman, are either melodic or quirky or both. As a result, fans of Grisman's more progressive leanings will no doubt derive great enjoyment from the multifaceted 12-minute suite "Sativa," while more traditionally-minded listeners are likely to be drawn to "Pupville," "Mad Max," "O'Banion's Wake" and other comparatively brief, hummable performances that lodge ever so tunefully in the mind.