Long time coming 

Bush & Grisman, mandolin masters meet

Sam Bush & David Grisman
Hold On, We’re Strummin’
Acoustic Disc

In the mandolin universe, the release of Sam Bush and David Grisman’s Hold On, We’re Strummin’ marks a dream-team epiphany akin to the discovery of some long-lost album on which Elvis Presley sits in with the Beatles. The latter match-up never happened, but after almost 40 years in the making, the former has. The two mando-heads first met at the Roanoke Bluegrass Festival in Fincastle, Virg., in 1965. As the story goes, Grisman, only 20 at the time, handed his 1924 Gibson F-5 to a 13-year-old Bush, declaring, “Hey man, play a good one!” Bush did, and the two pickers have jammed countless times since, making it hard to believe that it took this long for a studio album to materialize. But perhaps that is for the best, as both have had ample time to hone their craft to a pinnacle. The collaborative album shines most brightly on six-minute-plus numbers such as “Hartford’s Real” and “Jamgrass 741,” where there’s plenty of room for each to roam. The duo breaks bluegrass’s “no drums” taboo for a juiced-up acoustic version of the other Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’” (hence the hackneyed album title). The only red flag to wave when two such masters come together is at the prospect of an ego battle. Fortunately, Bush and Grisman don’t engage in musical one-upsmanship; they play connected. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)

The Dutch Flat
Ghosts
Woodson Lateral

I’m generally amazed by Dutch Flat guitarist Tim Graham—gentleman, scholar and guitar chameleon, a guy who sounds equally at home hefting the cock-rock in late, great Missoula band Mike and Rick or plowing weird new furrows in Portland trio The Dutch Flat, and without ever showing off or even looking like he’s trying too hard, either! Ghosts is a veritable Graham showcase; the rhythm section of bassist (and fellow former Missoulian) Matt Genz and drummer Sam Schauer puts up the scaffolding, but it’s Graham who gets up there and slaps on the stucco. “Intro” sounds like an incantation for ghosts, a queasy drone that effectively lures the listener into The Dutch Flat’s haunted house with the promise of more tainted candy. I’ve never been much for this band’s unadorned and vaguely emo-sounding vocals, but I’m also hearing a new crooning element to Genz’s theatrical declamations on Ghosts that reminds me of emo, only in more of a good and less of a precious way than before. Once in awhile he sounds exactly like Ian Curtis, which makes for a very, very weird fit with the ambitious arrangements this band works up, but somehow it also makes sense. (Andy Smetanka)

VIA
Deception Pass
Woodson Lateral

Wow: a neat combination of New Wave drone, Manchester ’79-style (on the opening track “Letter Never Sent” especially!), and busy guitar-based math-rock a la Slint. Too bad the vocalist is such a pantywaist, one of those breathy, whisper-singer types who sounds like he listens to too much Sundays and not enough Sabbath. I like what this label is doing—they also put out CDs by The Dutch Flat and the Building Press (who, according to Northwest rock scuttlebutt, recently kicked out a member with a new baby because he wasn’t able to tour…real nice, guys!). But they need to step up the pressure for some of these vocalists to quit acting like they’d rather be pressing wildflowers in their diaries than singing in bands. Interesting aside: I went to high school in Billings with the guy who produced this, Greg Williamson, and he used to have a mohawk and sing in a band called Fight For Life that had like four guitar players. Also one of the coolest logos ever: mirror-image F’s that also formed the stem of the L. Rad! (Andy Smetanka)

Tora! Tora! Torrance!
A Cynic’s Nightmare
The Militia Group

The name of the band seemingly revives the obscure punk tradition of tongue-in-cheek California jokes (Los Angeles band ADZ once released an album called, après Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Downey!), but Tora! Tora! Torrance! is actually from Minneapolis. So it’s not even really a bad joke, just a bad name. But a very good band, one that mixes snotty vocals with mathy Midwest pounding (the upper Midwest being home to that Amphetamine Reptile sound and all) and a good dose of power-pop. “Yr All on Our Dance Card” comes tearing out of the gate like dirty rock oughta, but by the second track it becomes apparent that TTT has some post-rock territory to cover as well. A Cynic’s Nightmare (recorded at the same studio as Nirvana’s In Utero) comes with a pretty ambitious agenda, but the band pulls it off. A little variation with the vocals would have been nice (it’s the same half-sung, nasally tenor all the way through), but it’s vexing mostly because the singer sounds exactly like someone else and I can’t think who it is. So in a way it’s my fault. Wait...right? (Andy Smetanka)

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