Of all the musicians I’ve assumed are safe in their positions of number one in the world at what they do, Bela Fleck is perhaps the one I thought was the most secure. Until now, there has been little competition in the eclectic, versatile, jazz but also world, folk and bluegrass banjo virtuoso category.
But Canadian picker Jayme Stone may be a legitimate threat. Stone, who studied under Fleck’s influence Tony Trischka, has drawn from influences around the world to create some enticing albums over the past ten years, including Africa to Appalachia, with Mansa Sissoko, which won the Juno Award (Canada’s version of a Grammy) for world music in 2009 and Room of Wonders, which won him a Canadian Folk Music Award for best instrumental artist in 2011.
On Folklife, Stone again looked around the world, following the footsteps of legendary musical folklorists John and Alan Lomax to put together a great selection of songs. Among the highlights are the Caribbean “Mwen Pas Danse” and the square dance ditty “Hey Lally Lally Lo,” which both feature vocals by Moira Smiley; the soaring “There is More Love Somewhere;” “Buttermilk,” which features Carolina Chocolate Drop Don Flemons; and the atmospheric “That’s All Right.”
Along with Smiley and Flemons, Folklife features Sumaia Jackson on fiddle, Joe Phillips on bass, Nick Fraser on drums, Ron Miles on Cornet, and the voice talents of Felicity Williams and Denzal Sinclaire.