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BLACK TWIG PICKERS, Ironto Special—Though not as self-consciously mysterious as the Earl Brothers, Ironto, Virginia’s Black Twig Pickers (chiefly Nathan Bowles, Isak Howell and Mike Gangloff) are equally artful in occupying a place where time stopped around 1930 or 1940, or somewhere in between or thereabouts. They’re no more interested in being pretty or proper than are the Earls, but they do play with the same precision, passion and mystery and create something awesome and wondrous out of the songs of yore, which burst forth from their instruments with grace and intensity alike.
PAT ANDERSON, Magnolia Road—Pat Anderson another in a long line of American artists with solid groundings in folk, country and traditional rock ‘n’ roll and unafraid to take the measure of their times, even as they plumb their own hearts. In doing so Anderson joins a select group of troubadours who attempt to shed a little more light on, and with it more understanding of, what the heck is going on within us and without us. You can’t have too many Pat Andersons in the world, but this particular Pat Anderson may be on to something, so take heed.
JAMES JUSTIN BURKE, Southern Son, So Far—A little bluegrass, a smidgen of traditional country, a dash of folk, the tiniest sprinkling of rock ‘n’ roll, a voice arising from the very earth he stands on and revealing a heart full of soul—thus James Justin Burke, native Virginian transplanted to Folly Beach, SC.
RODNEY DILLARD, I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry—Reliable sources report that a major and much honored bluegrass band is preparing its own tribute album honoring The Andy Griffith Show’s 50th anniversary year, but no musician can claim the higher ground of Mayberry with more authority than Rodney Dillard, a founding member of the legendary Dillards—and hence the Darlings—who appeared on only six episodes during the show’s lifespan, but became welcome guest stars on an unprecedented scale. This disc reprises a few of the Darlings’ Andy Griffith Show classics and fleshes out the remainder of its time with new songs in the pocket with the earlier selections.
MOUNTAIN HEART, That Just Happened—Welcome to the new Mountain Heart, not like the old Mountain Heart, but hardly unrecognizable either. Seeds planted upon Josh Shilling’s arrival have yielded a bountiful crop.
KASI PARDUE, This Is Me—Outside of family and a few friends who have heard her sing, and the musicians she worked with on this, her first album (or EP—it contains only seven songs), hardly anyone knows or has heard of Kasi Pardue. With a little work on her part, and the requisite luck that is either the residue of design or a matter of fortuitous timing, that could all change, and in a big way.
LOU REID & CAROLINA, Sounds Like Heaven To Me—Coming off 2009’s powerful contemporary bluegrass gem My Own Set of Rules, Lou Reid & Carolina now marshal their instrumental and vocal strengths in service to a rich collection of 14 southern gospel songs of praise, salvation, redemption and jubilation. How to get to Heaven is the overarching theme of the collection, and the songs seem chosen to reflect the multitude of ways one can find the proper path homeward.