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San Diego Troubadour
December, 2008

Self Titled
Written by Allen Singer

Plow’s new self-titled CD is a harvest of old and new traditional American roots music. The band tills new ground and uses the music’s old roots styles to build new musical directions. Everything new here is old again! Plow is a trio of musicians who bring a variety of different personalities and musical styles to the joyous harvest heard on this fine CD. Chris Clarke is a young, good old Virginia boy raised in the heartland of roots and traditional American music. Clarke ‘s voice and sweet low-key picking style on guitar and mandolin provide the musical backbone. Dave Bandrowski’s banjo style comes from New Orleans, the birthplace of blues, Dixieland, jazz, and gospel music. Bandrowski’s playing style is creatively eclectic with a mix of syncopated rhythms and solo style that fits Plow really well. John Mailender is the band’s youngest member, but he plays like an old swinging, seasoned pro. Somewhere in Mailender ‘s musical DNA there are traces of Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, Stéphane Grappelli, and Vassar Clemens. He’s a one-of-a kind musician who’s found the key to the essence of swing and heartfelt playing. This CD is alive with feeling, creative juices, humor, and a beating musical heart that drives its three members and touches the listener.

The CD’s sound is clear, crisp, and full. You experience each song as if it were played live and just for you. Plow recorded 12 songs – some old traditional, some original, and some instrumentals. Clarke opens with his own tune “Goin’ Down to Richmond.” Immediately, you feel invited to share in the joy, creativity, and discoveries of Plow’s musical adventure as it rolls through Clarke ‘s home town. His “Tonapah Station” is a deep, well-written tune filled with pathos that could have been written in the late 1920s. Clarke reflects on those times by playing the tune in a minor key that cuts to heart of the listener. “Sunday Sadir” is a Bandrowski original tune that lets you know he’s still got a hand in the Big Easy, with hints of Preservation Hall and the old cats back in Storyville. Mailender’s fiddle playing throughout is his gift, showing how a young musician can capture the essence of the past and the wonders of future discovery. He plays with the hand of a seasoned musician touched by the many musical styles he’s studied, experienced, and learned so far in his young life.

This terrific CD offers a musical bridge across time and styles. “Train 45,” the last cut on the CD, leaves us with an old traditional song to reflect the true genesis of Plow’s journey. You just know the boys had fun cutting this CD. It’s serious, it’s innovative, and it’s very approachable.

Plow’s new CD covers new ground and replants old seeds. Plow is a joy to hear and the CD itself is in an environmentally clean, beautifully designed “eco-wallet.” Clarke, Bandrowski, and Mailender have really plowed some old ground and grown a great new crop of music for us.

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