A question for Willy Lindner: Why the hell did it take you 40-plus years to release your debut record? I suppose I can take a couple of stabs. You’ve probably been kinda busy carousing with your brother as members of local bluegrass act Banjo Dan and the Midnite Plowboys. You may have been a touch preoccupied working with the New Bremen Town Musicians on one of the finest Vermont folk records of the last 20-ish years, When Time Was Young, which you released with almost no fanfare last year. (The album was actually recorded, like, a decade ago, but you sat on that one, too!) Perhaps your occasional forays with the WDEV Radio Rangers and Sky Blue Boys ate up some time, as well. Or maybe it was raising a family of equally talented pickers and singers. Whatever the reason, I gotta say, WTF? Because your “debut” album, Life, Still, With Mandolin, is such a pleasure to experience, it makes me mad you’ve been holding out on us for so long. Not fair, dude.
Fans of folk and bluegrass will undoubtedly get a kick out of the album, though. Every song is superbly arranged and performed. From the plucky instrumental opener, “Redeye,” through the beautiful, benedictory closing, “Ferenji” — written by your son, Travis Lindner — this album is an exposition of the best that Vermont folk music has to offer, and provides a heartwarming glimpse into what sounds like a wonderful family and circle of friends.
Take “Tennessee Lament.” As your mandolin and Jon Glik’s fiddle amble around Dave Rowell’s beautifully smooth tenor vocals, your wife, Nancy Mosher, and your brother, “Banjo Dan” Lindner, drop by with subtly perfect backing harmonies that tie the whole together. And you follow that with a heart-wrenching treatise, “Gravesend,” that gracefully addresses the uncomfortable truth that a big part of living is dying. It’s expertly and tenderly executed, just like virtually all the tracks here. By the way, your daughter Shannon is a stunning singer. Her duet with cousin Deanna Booth on “Blue Ball (Path of Peace)” is sublime.
I could go on. But I’d prefer to just thank you for sharing your music, family and friends with us. Life, Still, With Mandolin is a truly beautiful record that cuts to the core of what it means to be in the company of people you love. Just don’t make us wait another 40 years for the next one, OK?
Life, Still With Mandolin by Willy Lindner is available at banjodan.com.