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Reviews » Audio Reviews » Bela Fleck - The BlueGrass Sessions
Bela Fleck - The BlueGrass Sessions
Warner Bros. // DVD Audio
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 6, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Music:

1. Blue Mountain Hop
2. Buffalo Nickel
3. When Joy Kills Sorrow
4. Spanish Point
5. Polka on the Banjo
6. Clarinet Polka
7. The Over Grown Waltz
8. Ode to Earl
9. Home Sweet Home
10. Valley of the Rogue
11. Plunky's Lament
12. Maura On A Bicycle, Stout And Molasses, Way Back When
13. Dark Circles
14. Old Jellico, Puddle Jumper, Dead Man's Hill
15. Katmandu
16. Do You Have Room?
17. Foggy Mountain Special
18. Major Honker


The DVD

SOUND: "The Bluegrass Sessions" is presented in DVD-Audio 96k/24bit 5.1 and 2.0 audio, along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation for those who do not have DVD-Audio capability. Like all Warner Brothers titles, though, once the disc realizes its sitting in a DVD-Audio player, it skips right to the DVD-Audio section, so I can't analyze the Dolby Digital 5.1 version.

Last month, I listened to the Natalie Merchant "Tigerlily" DVD-Audio edition. It was an album of intimate, delicate music that was mixed in a way that made it more agressive, the same thing coming from all sides. Merchant was not involved and the entire album, with the exception of one song, was mixed without much care, it seemed. There's a different way of positioning music for the 5.1 platform depending on the genre, album or down to the particular song and I always find it's done best when either one of the best producers (David Tickle, etc.) are involved, or better yet, the artist themselves are involved. This is apparent with both the "Buena Vista Social Club" release and Fleck's DVD-Audio title, which he and two others were responsible for mixing to surround.

The surround sound mix for most of the songs takes on an interesting way of positioning the music - it's a simple choice, but it works perfectly. The music is set up as if the viewer is sitting in a chair in the middle of a room and the musicians had set up all around that space. The main music comes from the front speakers, but different musicians reserve their spots in the two surrounds. There's no "audio trickery" throughout the album or anything too agressive. The first song, "Blue Mountain Hop" starts off very well, letting us know exactly how the music is going to be set up as one of the musicians starts off playing in one of the surrounds, then the other surround starts up and finally, the front speakers begin offering their own elements. When there are vocals ("Polka On The Banjo"), they start off in the center and come into the surrounds during the chorus. "Do You Have Room?" is a very short piece simply talking about the music, but throws in quite a few surround effects as the voice bounces around the room.

A few more subtle, intimate tunes that just display one or two instruments ("Clarinet Polka", "Home Sweet Home") stay smartly in the front speakers as wrapping these little tunes around the viewer would have ruined the feel of the music. The surround-sound set-up for the music does change slightly from song-to-song, but this is really one of the few albums where I felt the positioning of the elements of the music throughout the album really not only fit the music well, but nearly perfectly.

While the way the music was presented changed slightly throughout the album, what really didn't change at all was how terrific the music sounded throughout. This is a superb group of highly talented musicians and all of the instruments (99% of this album is instrumentals), whether banjo, fiddle, mandolin or other sounded so wonderfully warm and natural, which such fine detail that it seemed like the instruments were being played in the same room. This was certainly assisted by the sound mix that really gave each band member's work a chance to shine.

This DVD-Audio presentation was a true pleasure to listen to. The music was fantastic and I could tell that a lot of care and effort went into taking the music and opening it up with the surround sound presentation.

Extras: Text notes about the music; musician list with pictures; credits .

Final Thoughts: Some may consider an album of bluegrass not exactly the kind of music that's going to prove to be demo material for DVD-Audio. No, it's not going to offer room - shaking bass like Metallica's DVD-Audio presentation, but personally, I consider it wonderful demo material; terrific musicians at the top of their game, presented in a fashion that highlights every last detail of their stellar work throughout this album. DVD-Audio has introduced me to another artist that I hadn't been previously familiar with and, in this case, I really thought it was a highly enjoyable experience - this is a really excellent album and it's highly recommended.
Order "Bela Fleck - The BlueGrass Sessions" now!
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