The continuing atomization and commingling of musical styles leads both to new styles and vibrant recapitulations of old ones. Either path, an evolution of the music. Father and son duo, Phil And Daniel Rosenthal, prove both directions of this observation on Fly Away, an assembly of fourteen mostly original compositions that is at once beautifully strange and deeply traditional.
An immediate umbrella classification of this music could be "American Baroque." The presence of the elder Rosenthal's various stringed instruments and pious, doctrinal voice immediately set the bluegrass brand to these songs, but this can only be seen as the basis upon which alternate styles are layered. The younger Rosenthal's tart trumpet brings a fruitful palette of implied influences to task, while adding to the "Baroque-ness" (or country counterpoint) of the songs. Son Daniel penned music to lyrics his father had written and mostly abandoned decades ago. Daniel took advantage of his father's unique vocal delivery by placing it among a variety of melodic inventions.
"I'll Fly Away," "Single Again," "Pretty Polly" and "Over The Mountain" are the folk songs adapted into the Rosenthal amalgam. "I'll Fly Away" is straight bluegrass-gospel with Daniel's trumpet serving as the church bell. "Single Again," bears the fractured contrapuntal play of New Orleans Jazz showing just how closely related these styles are. The original "This Rainy Afternoon" captures a true magic between the Rosenthals singing together lyrics of a homespun crystalline clarity. "Masquerade Ball" supports an Hispanic flavor and would have been more than appropriate in The Wild Bunch soundtrack. The instrumental "Relaxed" evokes very much the same sound, Will Graefe's slightly overdriven electric guitar giving the song a contemporary grit.
"Dreamed Last Night," written by Daniel and sister Naomi Sommers (mother Beth Sommers provides harmony vocals), provides a sample of lyrical content of the disc:
Could it be a ruse...something that went wrong...someone we couldn't lose...like the world turned bad and that is why I feel like it is raining in my bones...
It is this music that is the soundtrack of Greil Marcus' "Old, Weird America." It is, at once, deeply steeped in the vernacular while spreading stylistically in all directions. I'll Fly Away is one of those infrequent recordings that begs a reconsideration of what we label as musical styles. It is not iconoclastic or enigmatic, merely a quiet reminder of where creativity can lead.
This Rainy Afternoon; I'll Fly Away; Single Again; Since I Met Her;
Masquerade Ball; Dreamed Last Night; Relaxed; Pretty Polly; Sunlight on the Garden; Over the Mountain; Little Birdie; Dirt Farmer; We'll Talk Tomorrow; Waitin' on Down the Line.
Phil Rosenthal: vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo; Daniel Rosenthal:
vocals, trumpet; Rick Stone: alto saxophone; Mike Conners: drums,
percussion; Will Graefe: acoustic guitar; Beth Sommers: vocals; Naomi