Here's my review of Candlewyck's debut album. They just won an Independent
Music Award for 2002's best bluegrass song (Firemen).
Newgrass fans will especially like this project. Jeff, I see that you listed
them as one of your influences. I'd be interested in your comments about
this album too.
Votive Records VOT-2112
10612-D Providence Road, Box #319
Charlotte, NC 28277
Caution: this hot new highly-arranged newgrass album includes drums and
various other unconventional bluegrass instruments on some cuts. The duo of
mandolinist Chris Emerson and guitarist Ty Bennett assembled a very
impressive all-star lineup of special guests to assist them on
"Candlewyck," their self-titled debut album (Votive Records-2112) which
includes twelve original songs. Any album with the likes of Don Rigsby, John
Cowan, Terry Baucom, David Grier, Shawn Lane, Russell Moore, Kenny Smith,
Larry Rice, Michael Faith, and Sammy Shelor is bound to be a winner, which
"Candlewyck" most definitely is.
From North Carolina, songwriter Ty Bennett first began writing and playing
the age of thirteen on his mother's piano. With a degree in classical
composition and music theory, he has always maintained a deep passion for
performing, writing and recording all forms of music, from bluegrass to
jazz, rock to gospel. Aside from his writing and playing in Candlewyck, Ty
also works as an arranger, producer and instructor in Charlotte, North
Chris Emerson also provides an exciting mandolin style to the Candlewyck
mix. With innovation and technical virtuosity, Chris turns heads with his
personalized blend of new music. Equally adept on acoustic and electric
mandolin, he has developed a style that blends traditional conventions with
brand new ideas. Chris taught himself to play by studying and listening to
David Grisman, Bill Monroe, and Matt Mundy. His affinity for many diverse
genres of music such as jazz, classical, Celtic and rock is also very
evident in his playing.
A real showcase for Ty's distinctive songwriting, the album kicks off with
the hard-driving song, "Whatcha Gonna Say," that kicks butt ala Newgrass
Revival. John Cowan's lead vocal is tightly supplemented with harmonies from
Russell Moore and Time Cashion. Then, "Firemen" has Don Rigsby singing about
how a fireman's got to do it by the Book. Brad Hudson sings "Little Jasper,"
an uptempo ballad about a little dog left behind when Atlanta burned.. "Find
Me" features Tim Cashion on vocals and includes drums in the mix. It is also
a showcase for David Johnson who plays fiddle, banjo and dobro on the song.
The next Ty Bennett song to receive an all-star interpretation is Shawn
Lane's singing of "Things I've Got to Pay," with Russell Moore and Chris
Jones singing harmony.
Candlewyck has a strong affinity for instrumentals, with over 50 percent of
this debut album featuring vocal-less offerings. "Rusty," "Crooked Creek,"
and "Wilkes County Breakdown" are hot fiddle tunes which I wished would've
been mixed with more of the mandolin breaks and less chunking on the left
side (which was obviously mixed strongly to provide the drum-like backbeat
to their music). The latter tune did, in fact, include drums which, in my
opinion, could've been toned down in favor of more of Barbara Lamb's fiddle.
"Give Me A Minute" is a short jazzy interlude with only mandolin and guitar.
"Mercy Percy" is a super-charged, high-voltage instrumental with a unique
sound that includes electric mandolin, bass, drums, steel
guitar. The jazzy "Betsy's Lullaby" retires the banjo in favor of piano,
guitars, mandolin and percussion. Saxaphone and piano are featured to close
the album on a jazzy note "Just So You'll Know." Well actually, a stormy
guitar/mandolin duo surprise the casual listener with a short bonus closer.
Chris and Ty are two young guys who are pioneers -- explorers tapping
creative energies and youthful exuberance. They're obviously respectful of
the bluegrass tradition, but their music pushes the envelope into Newgrass
and Americana territory. Candlewyck creates a boiling cauldron of fresh
sounds with elements of bluegrass, rock, jazz, folk, country and classical
music. Their destination is a shining light on the horizon. They are
promising new talents that we'll be hearing more about. There's a strong
following of young folks for their kind of music.
This album probably isn't for your typical traditional bluegrass fan. I,
however, particularly enjoyed the varied hot ensembles that were put
together for each highly-arranged song on this project. I liked the
diversity found in their music, but perhaps the overall project may have
suffered a tad bit from a slight lack of musical continuity. Nevertheless,
Candleywyck is made up of two very talented young guys with a gift, and I
look forward to seeing how they channel all that energy and skill into their
next project into uncharted waters.
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