Andy Narell – Stickman
1981 – Hip Pocket Records
I’m a big fan of steel drums as well as Andy Narell’s use of them. I first heard about him around the time of his collaborations with the Flecktones, but this album predates that. Side one starts with the title track, which sets the tone for the whole album. It’s got a great driving beat with a catchy melody. The bassist sounds like he comes from the Jaco school of sound, which works really nicely on these tunes. From there, the album moves into “Jig” and “Celtic Folk Song”. It is really cool to hear these tunes played on steel drums, an instrument that is not traditional for the sound. Though it is different, it works perfectly. Out of all the tunes on the album, I like the ones written by Narell the most. He has a great grasp of melody, groove, and tension. At points the chords move by quickly and others they hold on to set the mood. Tempos and feels change frequently and keep you guessing. Sometimes the sound of steel drums conjures up a summer scene and may come across a little cheesy. This is NOT the case here. The compositions and complexity of playing take the steel drums out of their normal setting and push them past their gimmicky-ness. They become just another instrument, that in this case, is being playing beautifully and with amazing technique. This is definitely an artist worth digging into!