home listen reviews artists a-z

Fats Kaplin


Just what the doctor ordered. Music that calls up many times and places, but has its root in one string genius of modern day Nashville, and a couple of his like-minded cohorts.

Fats Kaplin has long been a ubiquitous sideman of high repute in Music City, but he's just not the kind to blow his own horn. So it's a rare pleasure to see him front and center, on tunes of his own design, written for the instruments that he has currently on his mind from the long list of ones that he plays. (For those who may not get to see him play, Fats is a lean mean string machine, so the name has the ring of the absurd.)

Kaplin grew up in the folk boom of the '60s in NYC, when string band music, gypsy music, and ethnic influences of every kind were gloriously colliding at a scale that can only be matched by what is, curiously enough, happening again today (though in the '60s it was a backdrop to the British Invasion and psychedelia, rather than hip hop and electronica). His multifarious musical aspects come to light here with examples as far afield as fiddle breakdowns, a march, a rag, the gypsy flavor of "Market Day," and a hypnotic Middle Eastern piece on the Turkish Balagma.

I'm not normally a big waltz man, but the evocative melodies of "The Ghost Waltz" and "Waltz of the Ohio" are my favorite tunes in this collection. The former calls to mind that otherworldliness of The Tin Hat Trio (and every bit as good, or better) and the latter the ring of true love that would bring you to your knees if you do not have one. The sanguine rendition of "Bonaparte's Retreat" is riveting; it has an ancient sound that inexplicably places me in a sunny distant meadow at the break of day.

It is Kaplin's brand of genius that enlisted the timeless George Bradfute (on guitar, bass, cello, and bells) to co-create this work. The very sight of his name in the credits gladdens a reviewer's eyes even before it charms his ears. Fats is also associated lately with a trio he plays in with two Nashville greats, Kevin Welch and Kieran Kane, and Kieran shows up here on banjo and drums on the tune he co-wrote, "Purgatory March." Fats is married to the incomparable Pulp Country star Kristi Rose. It's good to be Fats.

The record is a limited edition, and each jacket by Hatch Show Print is printed one at a time, no two the same. If you know music supervisors, documentarians, or filmmakers, please share this record with them. And by all means, buy it, here.
• Frank Goodman

Fats listen to clips
return to covers
buy it here or here
fats at deadreckoners.com
puremusic home