Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, May 2006. Used with permission.

On The Edge Review

Drew Emmitt

Across the Bridge

Compass Records 7 4410 2

It’s hard to know what to make of Drew Emmitt’s Across the Bridge. In spots, it’s brilliant, hard-driving bluegrass. Emmitt wrote or co-wrote most of the songs, is a fine mandolin player and appealing singer while his band, including Matt Flinner on banjo and mandolin, lays down a great foundation for the all-stars who contribute to the effort. Stuart Duncan, Del and Ronnie McCoury turn in stellar performances.

But just when you least expect it, there is weirdness that causes the whole thing to veer off the tracks. You have to wrap your head around startling transitions, as Emmitt goes from Flinner’s banjo-driven instrumental Big Ice to All That You Dream (written by and featuring Little Feat guitarist Paul Barrere), with an intro better suited to a “Little Feat Bossa Nova-Style” project. From that, he reverses field again with This House, a fabulous bluegrass duet with Del McCoury that would be perfect on one of Del’s own recordings. Nor is the problem just the transitions. Emmitt’s duet with John Cowan on Reach Out For Me is gorgeous but, at 5 minutes long, becomes tiresome and unrelentingly dry. Worst of all, closing track The Awakening is a bad-trippy nightmare that probably seemed inspired at 4 in the morning. Seven of 12 tracks clock in at more than 4 minutes, too long to sustain any real momentum.

Ultimately, it seems like Emmitt has what I call “Danny Gatton Syndrome” — the need to put everything, including the kitchen sink, onto one project. Retailers won’t have a clue which bin to file it in. First it’s bluegrass, then it’s jazz, then it’s newgrass, then it’s new-age, navel-gazing pretentious rock. But it’s best when it sticks to bluegrass. My advice is to rip the tracks onto your computer, delete about half of them and put the rest into permanent rotation.

Compass Records, 916 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212

Archie Warnock, [email]

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