For much of the country, spring is upon us. Not just because of the date on the calendar, but the warmth of the sun on increasingly longer days, the gentle breeze bearing the scent of blooms (and pollen!), and at least where I grew up the sudden change of Mother Nature’s heart with the arrival of a thunderstorm. It’s also when I start thinking about music festivals and the refrain of a live band at a back yard party. The sound of a banjo, mandolin, and fiddle can be the perfect soundtrack for that, as I was reminded when listening to the latest from Pacific Northwest native, Eli West. Entitled Tapered Point Of Stone, it offers a recital of a bluegrass journey, from old-timey to neo-traditional.
West and his musical mates Andrew Marlin on mandolin, Christian Sedelmeyer on fiddle, and Clint Mullican on bass sound seem to have recorded much of the record live. That contributes an atmosphere to the instrumentals that’s more akin to campfire than control room. Sedelmeyer’s fiddle especially lends a dance hall jam to Ginny’s Little Longhorn, West Fork Gals, and Sweet Marie. Johnny Wombat raises that energy even another level and comes out as pure distilled fun.
The vocal numbers on the album drop the tempo a little bit. Brick In the Road is a nice waltz with subtle female harmonies adding another layer of texture. Three Links Of Chain showcases West’s voice in a ballad with Mullican’s bass driving a touch of gospel feel. On the title track you hear the sadness from West as he remembers his father and “the years we would find, they still play out in my mind.”
West is a well known figure in Northwest roots music circles. He’s collaborated with the likes of Cahalen Morrison, Dori Freeman, and Bill Frissell on various projects and brings that teamwork aesthetic to this record. If you’re ready for some fresh, new bluegrass, by all means check out Tapered Point Of Stone.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.