Hot Buttered Rum violinist/fiddler Aaron Redner’s solo venture City by the Bay — created during a three-month touring hiatus — is a lighthearted and quirky sampling of Redner’s talent not only as a musician, but also as a singer/songwriter. A twangy string lullaby with violin and slide guitar, “Apple of My Eye” doesn’t stray from Redner’s roots. Though City by the Bay definitely isn’t a string album, prominent Bay Area musicians — including members of ALO, Jambay and HBR — lend their talent to create an amalgamation of folk and funk. “Cougar” sets a deep groove with bass and saxophones, while mandolin and vocals also add a bright layer to the track. Redner structures the songs around his violin, making the album a cohesive mix of bluegrass, jazz and rock. Grace Beehler
After seven years as the fiddle and mandolin player for the acoustic jamband Hot Buttered Rum, Aaron Redner took three months between tours to lay down the tracks for this delightful solo debut.
Redner wrote the 10 songs on this crisply produced CD, recorded at the Hip Hut in Fairfax, showing a flair for lighthearted humor, hip lyrics and major league musicality.
On the road for a decade, he explores the traveling life in the songs "Missoula to Miami," "A Song About Rio" and the title track, a valentine to world-class cities, including his hometown San Francisco.
Musically, Redner is influenced by the best of multiple generations, from Jascha Heifetz to Jerry Garcia, Duke Ellington to Darol Anger. And he's fused a freewheeling style and sound from the influences of folk, rock, bluegrass, jazz, swing, Brazilian samba and classical music.
With a master's in violin performance from the New England Conservatory and chops honed from nearly a decade of touring, Redner is one of our most accomplished players, and he surrounds himself with equally top flight local musicians, among them members of Hot Buttered Rum, Tea Leaf Green, ALO, New Monsoon, Vinyl, the Waybacks and Zero. Guitarists Chris Haugen, James Nash, Nat Keefe and Jeff Miller are especially terrific.
His thin, reedy tenor isn't the voice of a born lead singer, but, like a Marin County Randy Newman or Mose Allison, he makes the most of what he's got on hip tunes like the
funky "Cougar," which taps into the older-woman-younger-man zeitgeist, and the laid-back "Late Bloomer," an assurance to procrastinators everywhere that it's OK to "take your time, don't hurry," except when it comes to buying this CD. And then you'd be advised to get it pronto.
Buy It: "City by the Bay," Aaron Redner, independent, www.hotbutteredrum.net, $10.
- Paul Liberatore