About Time - Stevie Dunne
Banjo virtuoso, Bela Fleck told me that what first attracted him to the instrument was the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies. In his words, “When somebody hears the sound of Earl Scruggs playing, they either have to stop their car or they have to go find a banjo!” He’s certainly not the only old enough to have been smitten with the twang of the banjo from that standout anthem. Across the pond in the Emerald Isle, the banjo also took root, probably introduced in the late 19th century as the minstrel banjo; a simple accompaniment which later got frets and all the good stuff. The Appalachian and Irish instruments converged around the tenor banjo in 1915, the preferred axe of Dixieland, ragtime, swing and traditional musicians. Stevie Dunne cut his teeth in the pubs of Belfast and stuck at it long enough to become a cornerstone. He is a master of the tenor banjo and About Time, his latest release is his curriculum vitae; a model in the craft of banjo picking. I’ve always thought of the banjo as being to the guitar what the harpsichord might be to the piano. In its plucky nature, the banjo keeps time as it carries the melody. It’s that intonation and precision of each individual note that Stevie brings to the set arrangements on About Time. When the piece calls for six strings or more, Stevie calls on the guitar and the tenor version with equally adept finger work. Co-producer and countering Stevie on piano and keys is Donal O’Connor, another Irish music multi-tasker who, in collaborations with the likes of John McSherry and Stevie Dunne is helping to plot the course of new traditionalism in Irish music. Sweetening the mix and punctuating the rhythm on disc are Ryan O’Donnell on bouzouki and Francis Mcilduff on bodhran. About Time is about the timeless beauty of simple strings and skins in sophisticated and knowing hands.