“Traveling Roots” by the Matt Flinner Trio

Matt Flinner Trio
Traveling Roots
Compass Records

By Aaron Keith Harris

Mandolinist Matt Flinner, bassist Eric Thorin, and guitarist Ross Martin have been doing what they call “Music du Jour” tours for the last decade or so; on the day of each gig, one of them would write a new tune to be performed that night. That’s a pretty ingenious way of keeping things fresh, because even musicians as creative as these three can rely too much on habit if the setlist stays the same.

Traveling Roots is a 12-tune, 51-minute disc featuring four of these done-on-deadline compositions from each member of the trio. If you check to see who’s credited with each tune, you can detect some difference in styles—Thorin’s contributions tend to be what I like to call “chambergrass,” Martin’s have a hard-bop jazz edge, and Flinner’s are Tony Rice-meets-Pat Metheny melodic spacegrass—but within each performance there are all of these flavors and more.

The fast picking on “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump,” “The Terry Cloth Warriors,” and “One-Dog Night” will most readily excite bluegrassers, while “Blueberry Blue” and “Fallen Star” are works of the extraordinary genre-transcending beauty that can occur when a good musical idea becomes great through treatment by master musicians.