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Tuesday July 22, 2014
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Hot-Toe-Mitty

 

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territory. You hear the banjo-and-mandolin motor of bluegrass, all right, but in place of the fiddle there's a flute.

Nobody has ever done this before, but you wonder why not: it seems to make perfect sense. The flute complements classic bluegrass texture in so many ways. It suggests the Celtic antecedents of the music's oldest traditional tunes. It plays off against the percussive textures of the banjo and mandolin. And it has the combination of agility and noise that bluegrass instruments have at full throttle. Laura Bates's flute has a whole repertoire of little honks, whistles, and explosions of air to go with the sprightly dance she does around the tune. The effect is magical.

The inclusion of a flute does not end the list of Hot-Toe-Mitty's novel ideas. The band is squarely in bluegrass's eclectic and progressive camp, with only minimal reference to the music's borrowings from jazz. To a repertoire of bluegrass standards it adds a spice of Gypsy music that sets your feet in motion in a whole new way — rooted in dance traditions, yet also shining the spotlight on instrumental artistry, Hot-Toe-Mitty does a great version of the Django Reinhardt classic "Les Yeux Noirs." To my knowledge, nobody else has tried the bluegrass-Gypsy combination, either.

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