12 Jokes for Heavy Metal Mandolin
Nidus Music Productions
notably short of mandolin heroes. This guy doesn't mind being the first.
A few years ago Time magazine ran a tiny
blurb about a fellow named Mark Wood, a Juilliard-trained violinist/luthier/recording
artist who set out to prove that heavy metal music could be performed on
the violin. Well, everything Wood did for the violin, Maestro Alex Gregory has
now done for the mandolin. British-born Gregory has a degree in
composition from the University of Milan, and the "Maestro"
title was conferred on him by Queen Elizabeth. Now here he is designing
and building instruments, and playing and composing heavy metal. Gregory
apparently uses two 1950s Fender
Mandocasters as well as two 5-string, 29-fret "Pentalins"
of his own design.
Let's get one thing clear: The "jokes"
in this CD's title don't refer to the idea of playing heavy metal
music on the mandolin. If you think that's a joke, one listen to
this disc should change your mind. "Joke" is simply the English
translation of the Italian musical term scherzo—an uptempo
composition with a humorous feel. OK? So here we have 12—count 'em—virtuosic
scherzos for heavy metal mandolin.
This cat has serious talent. Backed up by
Mark Craney on drums, Matt Bissonette on bass, and himself on rhythm
mandolin and guitar, Gregory takes lead mandolin playing to places it's
never been. You'll hear crosspicking, bends, arpeggios, and lightning-fast
stratospheric licks, cranked up, distorted, and played with authority,
humor, and panache. My favorites are the unaccompanied "Red Neck Punk
Lullaby," which sounds like a classical etude on bad corn liquor, and
"She Got Her Knickers Down!"—which, despite the title, is a
slow, sensitive serio-comic waltz, with Gregory showing off his expressive
side. Albert Collins would be proud of the greasy "Dead Mojo
Blues," and Gregory has a bit of fun channeling influences as diverse
as Strauss' "Tales from the Vienna Woods," Mozart's Symphony No.
40, and a killer version of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love."
A virtuoso piece is meant to be a brief showcase
where the artist shows off his chops, and the 12 cuts here clock in at
36:26, total. But there's plenty of technique to chew on, and this isn't
heavy metal of the ear-splitting, obnoxious, boring kind. Each piece has a
distinct mood and feel; I wouldn't call half of them "metal" at
all, but what do I know? This thoroughly enjoyable disc is the perfect
item to play for unsuspecting fret-heads, and watch their jaws drop when
you tell them they're listening to a mandolin. You can order a copy directly from emando.com.