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Béla Fleck, the banjo-wizard leader of the fringe-jazz quartet the Flecktones, returns to more-bluegrass-oriented concerns with this 18-song outing, a complement to 1988's Drive
and a more-traditional follow-up to 1995's fusion-leaning Tales from the Acoustic Planet
. Most of these songs are instrumentals boasting Drive
's core group of Sam Bush on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Tony Rice on guitar, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, and bassist Mark Schatz; they're augmented in spots by fine guest players such as Vassar Clements, John Hartford, and the incomparable banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs. Fleck's spidery, tasteful plucking style lends originals like "Major Honker" and "Katmandu" an ever-so-slightly offbeat air, while he gives classics like Scruggs's "Foggy Mountain Special" and "Polka on the Banjo" traditional readings that wouldn't be out of place at the Opry. Flecktones fans will find much to like in Fleck's rootsy playing, and so will bluegrass purists. --Gregory McNamee