Yo-Yo Ma – The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Release date: October 24, 2011
Label: Sony Masterworks


  1. Attaboy
  2. Quarter Chicken Dark
  3. Helping Hand
  4. Where’s my Bow?
  5. Here and Heaven featuring Aoife O’Donovan
  6. Franz and the Eagle
  7. Less is Moi
  8. Hill Justice
  9. No One but You featuring Aoife O’Donovan
  10. 13:8
  11. Goat Rodeo
  12. BONUS
    • Mostly Six Eight
    • Parallax

This is by far one of the most challenging reviews I’ve had to write. Many of us have grown accustomed to Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, and we’ve heard Stuart Duncan’s fiddling, enjoyed Chris Thile’s mandolin, and warmed to the sound of Edgar Meyer’s bass.

Nevertheless, what happens when the four of them get together to take a musical risk? That’s The Goat Rodeo Sessions – they are definitely not pop, nor rock, nor any other commercial genre – but a very comfortable mix of bluegrass music and classical. They seldom rely on vocals, like in No One but You and Here and Heaven, as Thile sings alongside O’Donovan, “Cause we’re not lost enough to find the stars aren’t crossed why align them why fall hard not soft into.” The track is probably one of the less classical-influenced pieces in the whole album.

As most instrumental albums, The Goat Rodeo Sessions takes a few listens to actually get into, because on first impressions one keeps wondering what type of music this really is. If it could be a film score, it would probably be near perfect, as it seems they’re telling us a story with their music. While Duncan’s fiddling gives some of the pieces a certain vibrant energy — which fiddling often gives, unless the fiddling is required to make you totally depressed — the mandolin gives us serenity when juxtaposed against the warmth of the sound of the cello and the bass.

The album creates a very delicate balance of sounds when you start thinking you’re listening to a bluegrass album, and then turns around to make you feel like you’re listening to a string orchestra. The four of them actually are a string quartet, a somewhat unusual quartet that mostly works as a bluegrass band, but a quartet nonetheless. Perhaps, bluegrass is not a very popular genre with the masses, as I know several who wouldn’t touch it or country music with a stick, but if the genre is to your liking, The Goat Rodeo Sessions is something worth checking out.

The world should be able to see more of these collaborations.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Preview on Xiami.com | Like it? Buy the album on Amazon.com | iTunes

Ghost Writer

Here. There. Everywhere. Punished soul that usually watches what nobody wants, but sometimes gets lucky.

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