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By Charlie Englar
To pick or not to pick? The 23 String Band would have no problem with the answer to that question. Cumberland Valley has been known to produce bluegrass nirvana, and there may be a new force on the scene.
The five-piece might as well include a jug of corn liquor with the purchase of their sophomore studio release, Catch 23. Original numbers are mixed with choice covers, creating an eleven-song trip through Dixieland via the Bluegrass Express.
Original tune “Fat Frankie” is a superb show of the strong instrumental and humorous mixture present within The 23 String Band.
The cherry on top is the instrumental title track “Catch 23.” All band members take the opportunity to fully introduce themselves in this one. Resounding screeches from Scott Moore’s fiddle open the song, leading into a Dave Howard charged mandolin march. From there, Curtis Wilson’s banjo finds some deep plucking with which to settle upon. Midway through the song, after a signal from Chris Shouse’s acoustic guitar, the band sends it around the horn once again, this time with the tempo amped up a notch. T. Martin Stam and his bass are steady and sturdy for the duration of the party.
A few covers do make their way onto the album, in particular a very fun and, as one would expect, bluegrass version of Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart.”
While it may only be their second album, the fortitude and musical know-how shown by the band makes it ways to the surface. Grab that jug of corn liquor and enjoy.