★ Ben Mink's Foreign Exchange

It's never been re-pressed on vinyl or released on CD, but Ben Mink's Foreign Exchange has quickly become one of my favorite albums. Released in 1980, it is a magnificent, genre-defying mixture of bluegrass, progressive rock, and virtuoso jazz bound together by Mink's mastery of a wide variety of stringed instruments. Best known for his collaborations with k.d. lang and for producing the Barenaked Ladies album Maybe You Should Drive, the Canadian Mink has also recorded with Rush on their albums Signals and Snakes & Arrows. His work on Foreign Exchange can be seen as a predecessor to both his work with lang and an influence on later artists such as Bela Fleck and the exceptional early work of Dave Matthews. It's a rare piece of music, difficult to find but absolutely worth seeking out. Highly recommended.