Should you take a look at Chris Pandolfi’s reflection in the namesake of his recent Sugar Hill release, Looking Glass, you would see that his visage doesn’t stand alone; surrounding him would be the images of fellow banjo masters Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, and Tony Trischka, luminaries who have blazed the trail Pandolfi is now extending.
Scruggs embedded the banjo in the American musical mind, while Fleck and Trischka snatched it from its early Appalachian interpretations and stretched it into previously unknown frontiers. Like this esteemed trio, Pandolfi has accepted the role of five-string innovator.
Pandolfi is joined by his mates in The Infamous Stringdusters and some of the finest musicians in Nashville on the 11 cuts that make up Looking Glass. Shining moments from the album include the interplay between Pandolfi, mandolinist Matt Flinner, guitarist Chris Eldridge, and fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan on "Winnipeg," Jesse Cobb’s mandolin work on the newgrassy "Machines," the subtle play of Flinner and guitarist Ross Martin on "Big Bend," the intricate picking of all six ‘Dusters on "Wichita Stomp," and the somber "Melancholy," a banjo/bass duet performed with Byron House.
Looking Glass offers proof that the term master is not misplaced on Chris Pandolfi; those familiar with his work with The Infamous Stringdusters will not be surprised that Pandolfi has put together an astounding collection of instrumental banjo works. For the uninitiated, this record will serve as ample introduction to the finest young banjo virtuoso working in acoustic music today.
Looking Glass is out now on Sugar Hill Records.