Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Darol Anger on the youth movement

Wrapping up our RiverCity coverage, I was blown away by the inventiveness and musicianship of Republic of Strings, the instrumental string band led by master fiddler Darol Anger.

I'd last seen RoS in 2006 at Grey Fox, where the band included phenom Rushad Eggleston and had special guests such as David Grisman, in whose band Anger played for many years.

The current edition of Republic of Strings included two young players, Tristan Clarridge on cello (see related post) and 15-year-old Alex Hargreaves, the current national old-time fiddle champ (no, not the junior division), as well as more seasoned musicians Scott Nygaard on guitar and Bryn Davies on bass.

"These talented kids just keep on coming. It is a real phenomenon," Anger told me after Republic of Strings' second festival set on Sunday. "Grisman always said, if you can't beat them, hire them."

"Musically it is a continuation of what has been going on in acoustic music since the '60s," he said, adding that his generation of players "did the heavy lifting" and that "the kids are riding on that wave."

He attributed the bumper crop of young talent—also including the Haas sisters, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and others—to the influential music camps of master musicians like Mark O'Connor and Alistair Fraser, where many of the young players were trained.

"There is an ethos in folk music to look to older players," Anger said, acknowledging his own role as a mentor to young string musicians. "Over time, you learn it is not about the notes or the musical style, but about the people.

"Our music cuts across all boundaries," Anger said of Republic of Strings, but he might also have been referring to his own body of work. In the last year, Anger released a CD of classical compositions with his frequent partner, mandolinist, Mike Marshall, and the pair also produced a collaboration with the Swedish acoustic sensations Väsen.

Anger and Marshall are on the bill at Wintergrass as a duo. Also appearing at Wintergrass will be Väsen, Hargreaves, Jarosz, Clarridge and others mentioned in this item, so look for more cross-generational fireworks in Tacoma.

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