Dan Tyminski found a remedy for the common cold at the Birchmere on Wednesday night. Singing lead in an all-star bluegrass quintet justifiably dubbed "The Superpickers," Tyminski relied on his fleet- fingered band mates and a series of dazzling instrumentals to help preserve his voice.
In fact, Tyminski himself often led the way with crisply executed mandolin breaks that seemed to dance over bassist Ronnie Simpkins's hard-driving pulse. Banjoist Sammy Shelor was in fine form as well, playing ringing and rolling patterns that frequently shifted the tunes into a higher gear.
Yet when it came to wedding virtuosity and imagination, nothing came close to rivaling guitarist Tony Rice's arrangement of "Shenandoah." After playing an elliptical six-string acoustic solo, Rice recast the folk tune with a graceful yet intricate melding of jazz chords, thematic embellishments and sparkling harmonics before fiddler Rickie Simpkins subtly underscored the bittersweet melody. Another duet, though decidedly old-fashioned, found Rickie Simpkins and Shelor nimbly exploring the roots of string band music on "The Temperance Reel."
Tyminski's throat problems didn't severely compromise his vocals. He sang strong, if not full-powered, lead parts on several tunes, including "Sunny Side of the Mountain," a high-spirited tribute to bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin. Also handling some of the lead vocals was Rickie Simpkins, who possesses a soulful and stirring tenor. But the spotlight didn't focus on the singers for very long, for the show was laced with vibrant solos, quicksilver exchanges and fiery breakdowns.