Bluegrass Unlimited review of Beartracks: Friends (Tony Huber and Friends, 2016)
Presenting an album of all original instrumental tunes tests the capabilities of a performer, arguably, more than any other type of recording. Faced with such a prospect, most performers choose to include one or a couple of known tunes, if for no other reason than to give the listener a couple of footholds.
With his second release, mandolinist and tune-writer Tony Huber is going all in, writing all 13 tunes here, betting on his own creativity. For the most part, he succeeds. Backed in different configurations by Gretchen Priest-Mayon fiddle, Stan Lawrence on guitar and mandolin, David Boisvert on woodwinds and pennywhistle, Stuart Bonnington on banjo and Bob Nobles on bass and guitar, the tunes he has written have a light, lyrical appeal. While you don’t necessarily find yourself whistling them hours later, they are pleasant to hear and he draws on several musical styles. Several, including River Waltz, Piney River, and Galway Coast are Irish in sound and presentation, colored by Boisvert’s pennywhistle for added effect. Old-time and bluegrass are represented by the stately tunes Just in Time, Beaux’s Grin, and Random Thought(s), while a touch of Cajun creeps into Nathalie’s Stuff.
A step above those is Hungarian Caravan, a gypsy-style tune with a slight Klezmer feel from Boisvert’s clarinet. Better still is Marching With a Smile. The title says it all. Big old parade drums (bass and snare) give this a lively kick and you can’t help but smile. That would be the album’s highlight were it not for the medieval sounding Village Fete. Paired down to mandolin, fiddle, and horns, it’s hard not to be drawn in by its mysterious sound.
Where it falls short is that the temps are too similar. A couple of faster songs would have helped.
Bill Foster reviews Beartracks: Journeys (Tony Huber and Friends)
Contributing Writer – Bluegrass Unlimited
This is a pleasant instrumental project from Huber and friends, showcasing his original songs with mostly Celtic feel. Huber plays mandolin, and his friends include Gretchen Priest-May (fiddle), Stan Lawrence (guitar), David Boisvert (woodwinds), Stuart Bonnington (banjo), and Bob Nobles (bass). The Celtic strains are heard throughout with titles that include “Sailing the Irish Sea” .