By Donald Teplyske
Other than that he is a young banjo player from Maryland, there isn’t too much on the Internet about Rob Benzing. His music will need to speak for itself, and that isn’t a bad idea.
Comprised of eight instrumentals and five vocal numbers, Rob Benzing is a satisfying introduction to Benzing’s banjo offerings. Working with fiddler Patrick McAvinue, Benzing has arranged these numbers to showcase his playing without pushing accompanists to the background. Within such a mature presentation one can fully appreciate the contributions of Danny Knicely (guitar), Taylor Baker (mandolin), and Mark Schatz (bass) on pieces both familiar (“Lonesome River” and “Lonesome Road Blues,” to name two) and new (“Monocacy Crossing” and the dexterous and playful “Fingerboard Road”). His take on Pete Wernick’s affable “Armadillo Breakdown” is impressive.
The vocal numbers, all but two featuring Scott Brannon on lead with harmony from Tom Mindte, are unremarkable—Brannon’s voice is pleasant, just not especially distinctive. Jacob and Joey Mosley each sing a number, with Jacob’s “Carry Me” reminding one vaguely of a forgotten Americana tune.
I’ll leave the noodle crunching to those capable and inclined to such. At 36 minutes, Rob Benzing is a generous banjo album, one where the instrumentals are deserving of notice.