THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWNE, Grasstowne Centered on the veteran artistry of Phil Leadbetter, Steve Gulley and Alan Bibey, with banjo man Jason Davis and bassist Travis Greer rounding out a formidable lineup, Grasstowne makes a memorable start in planting its collective foot solidly among the finest traditional bluegrass practitioners of the day.

NO FOOL FOR TRYING, Madison Violet Rarely has an album so tenaciously subdued seemed so electric. The Canadian duo known as Madison Violet—Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac (sister of the duly celebrated fiddler extraordinaire Ashley MacIsaac)—ditch the alt-country of their previous (and second) album, Caravan, and turn fiercely inward, lyrically and musically. Their lovely, fragile voices betray influences ranging from the Scottish highlands to the Appalachians (not so far apart, when you think about it, except geographically); their enveloping melancholy evokes Lucinda Williams’s awe at seeing God’s hand moving mercilessly across the land and lives; their lyrics—now elliptical, now bluntly and personally piercing—are suffused with silences, too. In sum, No Fool For Trying sounds as if it might be an aural counterpart to an Ingmar Bergman film, saying as much in its pauses and hesitations and in its doggedly restrained musical accompaniment as Bergman’s tortured characters do in their lacerating internal monologues.

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