By Sylvia Toor Cumming

Bruce Molsky - IF IT AINT HERE WHEN I GET BACKI am a die-hard Bruce Molsky fan and have a true jones for his fiddling. For him to do wrong, he would have to do something really weird, like an Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-style Hawaiian slack-key klezmer album. Fortunately, he’s not done that.

If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back is an album of what Bruce Molsky does best: bare-bones simple American folk, with a solo Bruce playing fiddle, banjo, and guitar and occasionally singing. It’s brave music. A musician’s mettle is proven in solo work, and Molsky proves he’s a pro at deceptive simplicity. Not an out-of-tune note, not a missed chord, and acoustically true.

The music is unpretentious and gorgeous, and it satisfies, in the truest sense of the word, that craving for honesty that much popular music lacks. It sounds as though he sat down one afternoon on your front porch and gave you a solo concert.

Molsky starts the album with Wreck Of the Dandenong, an Australian shipwreck tune sung to a fiddle accompaniment. It is startling and charming, as if Molsky were saying, “Here I am and here it is. I like it, don’t you?” It is the perfect introduction. That song is followed by a lively guitar piece and then the front-porch party’s on and you’re in Bruce Molsky territory. Sit back in your rocking chair and sip sweet tea in the summer breeze.

The other song I want to mention is one that’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard it on a Folkways LP as a child, Shady Grove. He gives a lively banjo rendition and adds a few verses that are new to me. It’s traditional with a Molsky twist, and the song suits him just fine. The album closes with a laid-back version of the classic bluegrass song, Cumberland Gap.

Molsky plays as though he just invented each song. He has a talent for capturing the simplicity and honesty of the music as though he were channeling the generations of musicians who learned the tunes, but then played them just a little bit differently, and passed their version to a son, a nephew, a neighbor, who played them just a little bit differently, and so on….

If you lean back and close your eyes you can smell the piney air and hear the rocking chair creaking on the porch floorboards. And when the music ends, it’s okay to sit in that rocking chair, drink your sweet tea, and rock a while in silence, contemplating the concert you just heard.

An additional treat is the liner notes, which names the person, place and time for each tune, adding to the authenticity of the album.

In an age when music quickly becomes dated, Molsky’s music is an anomaly. It is traveling music in the truest sense of the word—music that never gets old, only gets better with age, and you can enjoy it anywhere.

If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back is Bruce Molsky at his finest.

Sylvia Toor Cumming is a writer, folk dancer, singer, and music lover who lives in the San Fernando Valley with her husband, dog, and three cats.