august 2008

clevelandMichael Cleveland, LEAVIN' TOWN
Five-time IBMA Fiddler of the Year Michael Cleveland is skilled in the art of tearing it up (on barnburning numbers) and tearing it out (your heart, that is), but on his first album with his new band Flamekeeper he gives wide berth to his talented bandmates to ride roughshod over listeners’ emotions, even while enhancing the various conversations with his own deeply felt and smartly crafted solos.

mickeysThe Mickeys, WALK ALONG
Those who missed the 2003 debut album, Finding Our Way, from the identical twin sisters who identify themselves by their maiden name, Mickey, ought to take time to get acquainted with Amy and Julie (married surnames being Sherman and Peebles, respectively) the second time around on a thoroughly engaging sophomore release, Walk Along, on their own Riverbeat Music label. Emmylou Harris once observed, in speaking of the Everly Brothers, an utterly unique and unreplicable blood-deep quality in sibling harmony, a theory borne out in the smooth, plaintive folk singer voices Amy and Julie show off here, solo and in tandem. A single immersion in the aching harmonizing they engage in on the tender, mountain country-flavored love song, “Stay With Me,” is enough to grab the heart for good, but that moment comes nine cuts into the album, by which time you’re liable to be hooked anyway.

coverJerry Douglas, GLIDE
by Billy Altman

Like its predecessors going all the way back to Fluxology, Glide features the same seemingly nonchalant virtuosity that has always been Douglas' trademark. It also sports the same eclectic taste and insatiable curiosity that has characterized his entire career.

frittsDonnie Fritts, ONE FOOT IN THE GROOVE
You can listen to music for the rest of your born days and you'll have a hard time finding anything so profoundly soulful from top to bottom and in every nook and cranny as Donnie Fritts's first solo recording in a decade, the oh-so-appropriately titled One Foot In the Groove. Recipient of a life saving kidney transplant in 2001, this southern soul pioneer, so essential to the vitality of the Muscle Shoals scene back in the day, songwriter of note, confidante and accompanying musician to a host of stellar soul, R&B, country and rock 'n' roll titans since the mid-'60s, doesn't beat around the bush here-he has much to celebrate and to reflect on, and he does both, in abundance, using all the tools at his command, along a bunch of great musician friends, to lend the varied soundscapes their impossibly rich, compelling textures.

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