Jean-Luc Ponty: New Country
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)
Imaginary Voyage (Atlantic 19136)
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin),
Darryl Stuermer (guitar), Allan Zavod (keyboards), Tom Fowler (bass), Mark Craney (drums).
Composed by Jean-Luc Ponty.
Recorded: Burbank, CA, July-August 1976
Rating: 84/100 (learn more)
Arguably, "New Country" is the most popular tune Ponty ever wrote and performed. At the time of its release, you couldn't walk two steps without hearing it from some radio. It is a hook-filled hoedown of European fusion and bluegrass. At the time, this was not something you would ordinarily have associated with the French sophisticate Ponty. Would he next pull on a pair of cowboy boots? I guess, maybe. After all, he did play "Montana" with Frank Zappa.
The perfectly radio-timed 3-minute "New Country" is a toe-tapping and handclapping excursion. The rapid staccato opening and closing theme is played in unison by Stuermer and Ponty. In between, you can't help but be caught up in the song's aggressive swinging rhythms and ingratiating riffs. Ponty is a fiddler here, not a violinist. Stuermer's acoustic guitar playing is outstanding. The song is over before you know it. Pass the sarsaparilla.
Back in the day, "New Country" was my least favorite of all of Jean-Luc Ponty's tunes. I couldn't stomach even a hint of country music at that time. I still can't. However, over the years to a certain extent I have come to appreciate one of its progeny in the form of newgrass because of its jazz qualities. In hindsight, Jean-Luc Ponty's "New Country" was a major step for the "newgrass" movement of which he was not even a part. Years later in 2006, Ponty was asked to perform his composition with the leading newgrass star mandolin player Sam Bush on his album Laps in Seven. I think it is safe to say that "New Country" is probably the only fusion piece that has ever been played at a square dance.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky
In Conversation with Jean-Luc Ponty by Thierry Quénum