Album Review of
Hair & Hide

Written by Joe Ross
November 26, 2021 - 2:44pm EST
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Kiwi fiddler George Jackson, now based in Nashville, heard his first heard strains of bluegrass music around age 14, then moved to Australia where he became a three-time winner on fiddle in the Australian National Bluegrass Championship and toured the country with his band, “The Company.”  For this album, Jackson invited seven very fine banjo-playing friends to each record a couple tunes, a traditional and one of his original compositions, to tap the roots of old-time music, Hair & Hide, a reference to his horse-haired fiddle bow and the calf skin heads on old-time banjos.  These banjo and fiddle duets are very enchanting because Jackson enlisted some of his favorite five-stringers to participate, Brad Kolodner, Jake Blount, Frank Evans, Catherine (BB) Bowness, Joe Overton, Wes Corbett, and Uma Peters. I was familiar with Wes Corbett, Brad Kolodner and Frank Evans from their earlier work with the likes of Molly Tuttle, Charm City Junction, and The Slocan Ramblers, respectively.

While only two instruments are featured on Hair & Hide, the repertoire is quite eclectic from old-timey to jazzy new acoustic offerings. For fans of fiddle and banjo, the journey from start to finish is quite an adventure. Opening with a traditional “Mississippi Sawyer,” Jackson and Corbett give it a unique interpretation and personalized drive by using first and second parts from different sources. For traditionalists, they may especially perk up when the album reaches its midpoint and features “Ida Red,” “Peter Francisco”, “Frankie” and “Smoky Hole,” the latter featuring Jackson’s low-tuned fiddle.  

For those interested in more progressive and innovative new-timey sounds, check out “Turtle Rock” (with Uma Peters’ gourd banjo), “Neighbor Mike,” “Chicago Tune,” and “Food, Coffee & Kisses.” Closing with “Bits of Banjos,” Jackson and Bowness offer a creative tune that was inspired by the search for various different banjo components to build a perfect banjo. Despite twists and turns encountered by these collaborators, their energy and synergy are quite apparent with each piece establishing its own expressive artistic groove. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)