Frank Wakefield & Leon Morris review   Leave a comment


wakefield-morris

Frank Wakefield & Leon Morris Frank Wakefield & Leon Morris Patuxent Music

For those with an eye on its history, Frank Wakefield and Leon Morris are much revered members of the bluegrass community.

Frank Wakefield has long been one of the more colourful components of the bluegrass spectrum, having developed his own style of mandolin playing while spending time with Red Allen, Jimmy Martin, The Greenbriar Boys, and others before launching a well-regarded career as a featured artist.

Guitarist Leon Morris has been an integral member of the Washington, DC and area scene from the late 1950s onward, and his recordings with Buzz Busby (such as Honkytonk Bluegrass on Rounder Records) are greatly admired; for many years, he has led the group Leon Morris & the (Bluegrass) Associates.

Patuxent Music has brought together these two senior members of the bluegrass world on a generous self-titled recording. While the album has much to recommend it, it is a little strange in its composition. The principals receive equal billing, but Morris appears on only seven of the fourteen tracks. Wakefield, Nate Leath (fiddle), Stefan Custodi (bass), and Mark Delaney (banjo) comprise the core band with others including Scott Brannon and Bryan Deere taking lead vocal turns with Danny Paisley and Tom Mindte offering up harmony. Danny Knicely (guitar) appears on select tracks.

Given this, the album isn’t really a Wakefield/Morris album as much as a Wakefield & Patuxent Friends release. And, as such, is quite enjoyable. In my opinion, it just isn’t what it appears to be from the cover.

That out of the way, Frank Wakefield & Leon Morris is first and foremost a bluegrass album of  quality. While I may favour the Leon Morris songs (notably “Blue Monday,” “I Hear A Sweet Voice Calling,” and “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow”) there is no drop-off when Brannon (“Made Up My Mind”) or Deere (“I Don’t Believe You’d Do Me Wrong”) are featured. Wakefield’s mandolin playing is featured throughout, and this consistency is one of the album’s strengths. One appreciates his deftness on the previously mentioned Bill Monroe classic as well on the more expansive “Rondo.”

“Lena,” a Morris composition from the early 70s (if not earlier), is reprised to excellent effect, with Paisley singing the high harmony. Regard for Wakefield’s voice may not be universally positive, but his rendition of “Never Fall” (“I Thought I’d Never Fall in Love Again”) from his days with Red Allen is conveyed with sincerity.

Frank Wakefield & Leon Morris is a solid bluegrass release that leaves one heading to the shelves (and download sites) in search of more from Morris and Wakefield, two legends of the music quite frequently overlooked.

 

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