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Alison Brown 

Stolen Moments

The banjo has a rather unusual reputation in music. Listeners either love it or hate it, and players either master it or make fools of themselves. On Stolen Moments, banjo virtuoso Alison Brown gives you a lot to love, and although it's not a perfect album, it's an entertaining and pleasant listening experience. Since her early days with fellow backsliding bluegrasser Alison Krauss, Brown (like Krauss) has worked hard to stretch the boundaries of the genre. Stolen Moments is her biggest step in pursuing a new direction, and she should be commended for taking so many chances.

Moving significantly away from the traditional bluegrass style of her earlier work, Brown's current sound is a bit closer to the better parts of Jazz Flavors, with a few Pat Metheny-like tunes in the mix. It's interesting to hear Brown's banjo trade licks with excellent pianist John Burr and mandolinist extraordinaire Sam Bush, and while the melodies sometimes meander into New Age territory, the performances are top-notch.

There are a slew of folky vocal numbers with some interesting guests, and for the most part they work quite well. Local heroines the Indigo Girls deliver a sweet version of Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound," but Beth Nielsen Chapman's take on Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" comes off like a barely adequate karaoke performance -- not a lick of the soul that the song needs. In spite of a couple of slipups, Stolen Moments works well on a number of levels, and confirms Brown's place as a true innovator.

Alison Brown Quartet performs two shows at Eddie's Attic Fri., Nov. 11, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Kodac Harrison opens the second show. $20. 515-B N. McDonough St. 404-377-4976. www.eddiesattic.com.

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