Album Review: Natalie Brown – Violin Crossings

Natalie Brown is an Eastern Iowa music staple–playing violin/fiddle in a number of notable bands in the area including The Trollies, with Nikki Lunden, The Mayflies and with local guitar legend Craig Erickson in their latest jamband Planet Pluto. She is classically-trained and holds a degree in violin performance, a master’s in music education and is currently the orchestra director at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids.

Violin Crossings is the first solo album by Natalie Brown. Over a decade in the making, she says the album was inspired by–and is a celebration of–the musicians she has worked with over the years, some of whom make an appearance on the record.

Crossings is largely instrumental, save a slight re-wiring of the Charlie Daniels Band hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” featuring members of the Mayflies. The eleven songs cross a mélange of styles: the newgrass “Chit-Chat”; the bluesy “Dusk”; the fairly faithful rendition of Enya’s new age hit “Lazy Days”; the Celtic-tinged “The Star”; the spicy Latin of “Tango Por Enrico”; the light jazz-pop of “Jonchets.”

If the central character in this album is the virtuoso bow work by Brown, the supporting role is played by Craig Erickson. Violin Crossings was produced with Erickson and he contributes the majority of the guitar work on the album. Erickson’s progressive and jamband influences are strongly felt, in particular, on my favorite tracks on the album: “Ten Past the Dragon,” “The Wanderer,” and “Planet Pluto Strut.” On the first listen I was reminded of jazz-rock violinist Jean Luc Ponty, who Brown quickly admits is an influence for her.

Violin Crossings is–as its title suggests–a violin-guided journey through the diverse musical styles of which Brown is capable. She calls her first record a celebration and I feel that intention and spirit in each track. Violin Crossings is a calling card for what I can only hope will be further visits.