february 2009

Wynonna, SING, CHAPTER 1
Sing, Chapter 1 is, in a sense, Wynonna's version of the standards albums others have used to prop up flagging careers; the big difference is she's not some washed up rock star trying to convince us these timeless songs were always close to her heart, even if she never sang anything remotely like them before. No, the fare on Sing, Chapter 1 is right in her wheelhouse, as a singer comfortable with pop, blues, country, gospel and R&B, all of which she's explored over the years, either on record or in concert. Wy being Wy is an unbeatable proposition.

BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, ALLIGATOR PURSE/Pine Leaf Boys, HOMAGE AU PASSE
Alligator Purse and Homage Au Passe proceed along similar paths, of limning the sources of Cajun and Creole music while adding contemporary colors to the palette, both in new original songs and an inspired selection of covers from beyond the Cajun/Creole axis that are utterly transformed rhythmically and texturally by accordions, fiddles and the distinctive cry and break in the singers' voices.

Nancy Cassidy, RUNAWAY TRAIN
Thirty years into this artistic calling of hers, Nancy Cassidy brings to her captivating new album the richness of living the examined life of a daughter, a wife and a mother.

Common Strings, THE RAIN CAME DOWN
This new band has the instrumental chops enough to impress anyone, but in the end what cuts deepest are songs drawn from identifiable real world situations and commonplace, unending struggles and longings, leaving the best sort of impression of Common Strings's deep soul.

Crowe Brothers, BROTHERS -N- HARMONY
The word should have gone out so much sooner: the Crowe Brothers' Brothers -N- Harmony is a bluegrass masterpiece, easily as good as or better than anything the genre produced in 2008 (it was released on September 30, 2008). North Carolinians Josh and Wayne Crowe, with production handled by Josh and the brothers' multi-instrumentalist bandmate Steve Thomas, seem to have been teleported to some musical Twilight Zone where it found its songs, energy and ambiance. It should be 1955 now, and this record should have a big, striking cover, the kind of insightful liner notes an uncredited Chick Crumpacker wrote for Elvis's second RCA album, and been issued on a heavy 12-inch vinyl disc reeking of its petroleum base. How do they manage to sound so old and yet so new and fresh at the same time?

Lonesome River Band, NO TURNING BACK
In its 25-year history of making memorable music the Lonesome River Band has arguably never been stronger than it is on the late 2008 release, No Turning Back. If this album doesn't earn a place on a lot of year-end Best Of lists, something's amiss, because few other albums in any genre boast finer singing, songwriting, playing or more conviction than this gem.

John Sebastian & David Grisman, SATISFIED
There are plenty of worthy new albums coming in every week, but sometimes an older, heretofore unappraised recording demands some ink because it's just so damn good it can't be ignored. That's Satisfied, a sublime duo effort by John Sebastian and David Grisman released on Grisman's Acoustic Disc label in late 2007. This then is an effort to right the great wrong of overlooking Satisfied when it was new, even though TheBluegrassSpecial.com did not exist then. Nevertheless, as Carl Perkins once said, "Did you ever stop to think that when something's right, it's just flat right?" Well, it's flat right to wax effusive over Satisfied, any time.

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