Freudmann & Oberlin
Magnetic West
Freudmann & Oberlin 2015, 31:48

CD Review by Hermon Joyner, April 6, 2015


Over the years, the mandolin has been successfully paired in the duo format with a variety of other instruments like guitar, of course, and piano, upright bass, harp, and even other mandolins. So it was a pleasant surprise to listen to this recording that combines the mandolin with a cello, which is here both bowed and plucked. The range of the cello is closer to that of the mandolin, kind of like it is with the guitar. It turns out to be a good combination.

Anyway, Gideon Freudmann and Brian Oberlin have released their long-awaited duo album, Magnetic West. Both of these accomplished musicians have successfully ventured into several musical genres. Gideon Freudmann is the founder of a few musical groups like the Portland Cello Project and Caravan Gogh, where he performed with Brian Oberlin. Freudmann has performed classical and folk music for the both the acoustic and electric cello and is a prolific composer. Oberlin has proven himself in bluegrass, swing, and now Italian classical mandolin music. In the context of this album, the eclectic nature of these two musicians drive the selection of the music, which is also eclectic.

Magnetic West starts out with “Music For A Found Harmonium” by Simon Jeffes, with Oberlin’s mandolin sounding wonderfully woody, dry, and resonant. At the other end of the spectrum, “Hoedown” is a quirkily, amusing song that sounds like a nonsensical take on a Schoolhouse Rocks tune. It also features a face-melting solo from Oberlin on acid-tinged electric mandolin. Interspersed throughout the rest of the album are a Bach Invention, an ode to Chevy Inline 6 cars, and several other songs mostly written by Freudmann, though two are written by Oberlin. Freudmann’s songs tend to be humorous tongue-in-cheek affairs. In fact, there is enough variety in the selection of tracks here that most people couldn’t pull it off, but the consistently polished performances by Freudmann and Oberlin tie everything together. Probably the best and most tasteful track is the instrumental “Fiddler On A Hot Tin Roof” by Freudman. It is sublime and showcases virtuosic turns from both Freudman and Oberlin.

Sometimes with self-published recordings, you run the risk of poor quality recordings, but in the case of Magnetic West, I can happily report that this is not the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. And actually, I think the miking and recording of Oberlin’s mandolin is among the best I’ve ever heard. And this includes the true landmarks in mandolin recordings like David Grisman’s Tone Poem series. Oberlin’s Collings mandolin sounds so good here that it’s hard to imagine anything better sounding, and all the various instruments sound really good here. It’s because of this high quality sound that I can recommend this recording without any reservations. Magnetic West is a fine recording and great fun, too. Check it out.

Song List: Music For A Found Harmonium; Geography; Chevrolet Six; Danza de Dreadnoughtus; Hometown Melody; Invention #4; Fiddler on a Hot Tin Roof; Trouble in Mind; Hoedown; Bad News Cafe.