It's said that age is just a number. This could be true; a lack of years certainly isn't a problem for fiddler Mike Barnett. The 15-year-old prodigy's new CD, Lost Indian, displays musical maturity and a solid grasp of one of the most expressive instruments in the string family. His 14-tune disc offers a vibrant mix of music in a variety of styles, from lighting-fast bluegrass reels to expressive waltzes to soulful blues.
Teaming up with some of Nashville's finest session musicians -- including Brian Sutton, Charlie Cushman, Shad Cobb and Andy Hall -- Barnett achieves a balance of instrumentation throughout the album. Most of the tunes feature solos from mandolin, banjo, guitar and dobro in addition to fiddle.
The synergy between Barnett and his instrument is colorfully displayed in the famous bluegrass standard "Cripple Creek," which kicks off the disc. The young fiddler's timing is tight as he strategically throws in rhythmic pizzicatos. Barnett shows his versatility with a little Texas-style fiddling in "Sally Goodin," which is followed by a touching interpretation of "Lonesome Moonlight Waltz." He drones his double stops in just the right places, creating a sense of longing in this evocative waltz.
There's a smart balance of talent on the record's title track; each musician passes the solo without missing a beat. Barnett's version of "Ragtime Annie" showcases the young musician's flawless rolls and intonation. He sounds like he was born with fiddle in hand.
Although the considerable influence of bluegrass masters such as Mark O'Connor, Bobby Hicks and Aubrie Haynie are evident in Barnett's playing, Lost Indian is a great example of tradition salted with creativity and youthful energy. It's a safe bet we'll be hearing a good deal more from the rising star.
A Nashville native, Barnett now calls Massachusetts home and is part of the Gordon Stone Band. This weekend he takes a swing through Vermont, joining Stone, Coane and Sacher at The Black Door in Montpelier on Friday, January 21, and Stone at Ri Ra in Burlington on Saturday, January 22.