Matt Glaser/Andy Statman/John McGann/Jennifer Kimball/Bruce Barth/Lucy Kaplansky/Tony Trischka/Jim Whitney, July 1997

The "first edition" of the band...



The Wayfaring Strangers
This Train
The Wayfaring Strangers’ second album makes seemingly unholy alliances sound
seamless and logical. Creating a peaceful accord between swing, bluegrass,
gospel, and klezmer (among other stylistic travels) is actually no small
feat. Often other efforts in the “swing grass” field have been noble but
The musicality trickles down from leader Matt Glaser, whom many people
primarily know as the recurring talking head on Ken Burns’ Jazz. His
ecumenical musical vision here is quite impressive, his dazzling ensemble
including banjoist Tony Trischka and vocalists Tracy Bonham, Ruth Ungar, and
Aoife O’Donovan.
The first strong whiff of imminent eclectic action comes on the second
track, “Columbus Stockade Blues,” as Glaser’s fiddle solo moves slyly from
Appalachia into the more urban turf of dissonant, extra-blue notes and jazz
colors. After turning sharply into Laszlo Gardony’s bona fide jazz-piano
solo, with percussionist Jamey Haddad’s swing pulse, the tune regains its
bluegrass footing without apology.
Jazz re-harmonization redefines their brooding-waltz take on “When the
Golden Leaves Begin to Fall,” suddenly sounding a long way from Bill Monroe
or the Blue Ridge Mountains. Or is it? That’s Glaser’s implicit musical
question, and one persuasively argued.
– Josef Woodard

Wayfaring Strangers This Train- Octave Mandolin solo transcription (pdf file)

Wayfaring Strangers This Train- Octave Mandolin solo .mp3

("This Train" from Rounder CD also titled "This Train".)

Wayfaring Strangers Live 12/03- No Mother nor Dad (6 minutes, large file)

We play the verses of this Bill Monroe classic in 7/4 for your dancing pleasure.

The Wayfaring Strangers are a number of things: a band, an album, a project, and a new way to play American music. In their incarnation as a band, they have been called "the most potent supergroup in folk music" by the Boston Herald. The Herald goes on to praise Shifting Sands of Time as "an audacious, genre-bending experiment, full of joy, sorrow, and beauty." Most importantly, the Wayfaring Strangers seek to find spiritual common ground between different styles of music: among which include jazz, bluegrass, folk, Klezmer, Celtic, and chamber music.

A collective fronted by visionary violinist Matt Glaser, the Wayfaring Strangers present a bold, successful experiment in Americana. This all-star assemblage of players and singers, whose pedigrees extend across innumerable genres, first set out years ago to seek the heart of American music in a deft blend of modern and traditional styles. Their first album, Shifting Sands of Time, is the culmination of that search. On this stunning debut, Glaser's elusive dream of combining the high lonesome sound of bluegrass and mountain music with the soul and sophistication of late-night jazz is given a voice by some of the world's finest acoustic musicians. The end result is unprecedented not only in its intricacy, beauty, and striking interplay of styles but also in its organic purity. Never before has something so expansive on paper came out sounding so smooth and natural on disk.

History shows that change has been instigated only by those bold enough to reach into the unknown - to cross the lines and discover the hidden fruits of music's gray areas. But the will to initiate such an astonishing fusion is not enough: ability and ingenuity is essential. It is the caliber of Glaser's co-conspirators that lends such necessary continuity and clarity to Shifting Sands of Time. His long-time associate Andy Statman, on mandolin and clarinet, is the sparkplug of the Wayfaring Strangers - a musician so virtuosic in both sound and scope that he pushes the ensemble as a whole to new heights with his fiery inventions. His sweeping clarinet playing comes straight from the Klezmer tradition, with modal incantations and pained cries, while his mandolin work is fierce in its rhythmic attack. With Statman fanning the flames, banjo master Tony Trischka delivers some of his finest playing ever - a fascinating intersection of old-tyme drones, Earl Scruggs derived finger-picking, and Trischka's own melodic and chromatic approach. New York pianist Bruce Barth brings a rich harmonic palette and sensitive, tasteful phrasing to the group. Guitarist John McGann and bassist Jim Whitney are the rock of the Wayfaring Strangers, holding the rhythm firm yet supple under the vocalists' and soloists' ecstatic, evocative flights.

With the level of musical invention so high, only the best vocalists are capable of matching wits with Glaser and the Strangers. Shifting Sands of Time is blessed by a who's who of contemporary folk, bluegrass, and pop singers, giving grace and charisma to the project. Acclaimed folk singer and songwriter Lucy Kaplansky delivers knock-out performances on "Wayfaring Stranger" and "High on a Mountain." Dean Olsher, host of WNYC's "The Next Big Thing," called the latter track "one of the most transcendently beautiful pieces of music I've heard in a long time." Tim O'Brien revisits his swing-band roots with a bouncy "Blue and Lonesome." "Rank Stranger" is blessed with a resilient, moving performance by bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent. Jennifer Kimball, the Strangers' official full-time vocalist, invests each of her performances with the perfect blend of earthiness and wonder. Best known in pop and rock circles, Tracy Bonham delivers an impressively versatile interpretation of the classic spiritual "Working on a Building." Most memorable of all, though, is a stunning version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" featuring Ralph Stanley. A legend in bluegrass and mountain music, Stanley's impassioned performance is framed in shimmering piano, and subtle, eastern-influenced percussion. This cut illuminates the common ground between the modality of Ralph Stanley's mountain singing and the modality of modern jazz, to stunning effect.

New vistas, new directions. The Wayfaring Strangers deliver all they promise on their jaw-dropping debut Shifting Sands of Time. As noted bluegrass critic, songwriter, and musician Jon Weisberger writes, "Every once in a while, an album comes along that challenges our expectations, our assumptions about the way music is made. Not for those who demand that their music be comfortably predictable, Shifting Sands of Time is hauntingly new, like a dream mingling the past and the present, the known and the unknown into something that can touch our deepest emotions."

I hope you'll consider buying a few copies for yourself, your loved ones, and a few dozen people in your neighborhood! They can be ordered now at or at (it's rounder 0484.)
If you like the record, please tell your friends via email to go out and get it!
Thanks so much,
Matt Glaser

Review now on

The Wayfaring Strangers - Shifting Sands of Time (Rounder)

Shifting Sands of Time by The Wayfaring Strangers hit my doormat with a
classy thump during the last days of 2001. It's set a standard of
musicianship and album production which will be tough to follow in 2002.
This is director of the project and musician Matt Glaser's exploration and
fusion of sophisticated jazz with bluegrass, folk, klezmer, blues and
country. One moment it feels like Aaron Copland meets Jacqui McShee's
Pentangle, the next rough backwoods meet New York jazz clubs, but it all
works brilliantly. The thirteen tracks may gently meander but they are also
musically adventurous; there's a coolly smooth undertow with hot and
unexpected ripples breaking through. Every eloquent note is beautifully
played and sung and it achieves an acoustic whole of quite surprising

The all-star ensemble (you really wouldn't want call them a Band) comprises
Matt Glaser, violin, viola; Andy Statman, clarinet, mandolin; John McGann,
guitar, mandolin; Jennifer Kimball, vocals (ex-The Story); Bruce Barth,
piano; Tony Trischka, banjo; Jim Whitney, double bass. Guest vocalists
include Ralph Stanley, Lucy Kaplansky, Tracy Bonham, Rhonda Vincent, Laurie
Lewis, Tim O'Brien, Cathie Ryan, and Ry Cavanaugh.

Look out for this one - it's jazz, it's bluegrass, it's a classic and it's
spell-binding! File under Good Music.