“The People Need Light” by Mr. Sun

Mr. Sun
The People Need Light
Compass Records

3 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Mr. Sun is a modern string band unrestricted by genre. With the near-legendary Darol Anger on fiddle, one isn’t surprised that the quartet emphasizes instrumental experimentation over verse-chorus-verse constraints.

Anger is joined in Mr. Sun by Joe Walsh (mandolin), formerly of the Gibson Brothers; Grant Gordy (guitar), who has played with David Grisman; and Ethan Jodziewicz (bass), a frequent Sierra Hull accompanist. The result is an album of masterfully played acoustic sounds ranging from swing and jazz to (almost) bluegrass and chamber music.

With each note precise and every minute of the one-hour album obviously fully considered, what is lacking is spark. Passion. Emotion. Everything sounds wonderful. It just isn’t memorable.

No doubt there is a market for this type of music. I’ve seen it fill halls at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. I’ve heard it on main stages, side stages, and in intimate rooms at Wintergrass, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and various other venues. I’ve sat in the audience and heard Anger make similar music with Grisman, Mike Marshall, Tony Rice, and other like-minded folks. There are musicians and listeners who will savour the intricacies of Mr. Sun’s arrangements and the expansive qualities of the various players—I’m just not one of them.

Beyond the opening vocal number, Randall Hylton’s “The Likes of You,” which is sung by Walsh, there is little on this album that will be recalled in a month’s time. Anger’s “Key Signator” is featured, and is a highlight perhaps only because it is familiar, while “A Little Heart’s Ease” is a gentle, evocative piece.

The People Need Light, indeed. But they also need something more than notes, and that is mostly what I hear here.Mr. Sun cover