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APRIL 12

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In his liner notes for Tony Trischka’s World Turning, Bob Carlin trumpets his five-string comrade’s efforts to display the banjo’s stylistic breadth, writing, “It is untenable that the guitar, and not the banjo, has become our national instrument because of the myriad of musical styles with which it is associated,” and observing that there have been times in the history of American popular music when the banjo did take center stage. What he fails to note, though, is that the banjo’s periods of dominance have always coincided with the mass popularity of genres to which the instrument is particularly well-suited, such as minstrelsy, Dixieland, or ’20s and ’30s dance-band jazz. (Even during the folk-song revival, it lost out to the guitar, which is more easily adapted to the needs of lazy strummers.) What no one, not even virtuosos like Trischka and Carlin, has been able to do is make the banjo rock. Its sharp attack and speedy decay make it tough for the instrument to hold its own in a heavily amplified band (even unamped bluegrassers have to pick flurries of notes to be heard) and when electrified, it sounds like a poor substitute for the guitar. Still, there’s nobody more qualified to demonstrate the full range of banjo styles, both traditional and experimental, than Trischka, who with his six-piece group and a narrator, will present a three-century history of the instrument tonight at 8 p.m. at the Barns of Wolf Trap, 1624 Trap Rd., Vienna. $14. (703) 938-2404. (Glenn Dixon)