may 2012

carrie hassler
Carrie Hassler: singing from straight outta the country…


By David McGee

Carrie Hassler
Rural Rhythm

Pure and simple, Carrie Hassler is a great singer. Even so, she’s going to have to forgive some folks who might mistake her for Rhonda Vincent, so similar are the timbres of their voices. But comparing Ms. Hassler to Ms. Vincent is a compliment of the highest order, and their similarities are as much in soulfulness as in sound, which is an even greater compliment. These women have few peers when it comes to finding the deepest and most telling nuances of a song, and then making sure those nuances are vividly rendered so listeners feel to their cores what the singers are experiencing.

Carrie Hassler, live at Nashville’s Station Inn, performs Darrell Scott’s ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,’ with Jennifer Strickland, Randall Massengill and Mike Ramsey.

Ms. Hassler works her vocal magic in just under half an hour on her new eight-song album, The Distance, a real gem of country and bluegrass art at its finest. What you may find yourself wishing as the album goes along is that contemporary country still had room for women who sing from straight outta the country and not from some imagined rock arena of the mind; that the tenderness of her soft, wistful sentiments in the Steve Gulley (who produced The Distance as well)-Tim Stafford beauty, “All I Have To Do Is Breathe,” were more the rule of the day in the mainstream, as once was the case not so long ago; that the classic steel- and fiddle-infused roots country of Bobby Boyd’s heart tugging beauty “Catch My Breath,” and Ms. Hassler’s plaintive reading of same had as much of a place in Nashville circa 2012 as once it would have. This is not to say Ms. Hassler’s music is old fashioned, any more than artful songwriting about real life experiences, further heightened by sensitive acoustic instrumental support, is going out of style. Really, the story Carl Jackson penned in “Eugene and Diane,” concerning a musician and an upper crust gal inexorably drawn to each other but afraid to share their feelings, thus dooming themselves to “live and die regrettin’ all the things they never said,” is a tale of unrequited love for the ages, as moving as anything you’ll hear anywhere today, with the titular characters' thwarted dreams perfectly embodied by Ms. Hassler, in the Diane role,with husky voiced Steve Gulley doing a splendid job expressing Eugene’s lament.

Carrie Hassler and her band Hard Rain, at Harrisonburg, VA’s Court Square, performing Patsy Cline’s ‘If You’ve Got Leaving On You Mind’

All this, and Ms. Hassler also delivers a plaintive reading of “Give My Love,” a touching Mark Wheeler-Raymond Fortner gospel song describing a couple’s final hours on earth, as they anticipate their Heavenly reward and offer some final words of wisdom to their children. Elsewhere she gets it going on a hard charging, album opening version of Gram Parsons’ “Luxury Liner,” in a treatment that holds its own against Emmylou Harris’s formidable version, thanks not only to the singer’s go-for-broke attitude but also to the rousing support she’s given by Justin Moses on dobro and Ron Stewart on fiddle and banjo, with Alan Bibey and Tim Stafford pitching in with some lively solos on mandolin and guitar, respectively. If this album had only “All I Have To Do Is Breathe” and “Catch My Breath” to recommend it, it would still be exceptional; but all these other treasures, and all parties’ commitment to the music and the messages, make it one of the outstanding releases of 2012 thus far and, more important, a record sure to sound even better as the years wear on—it’s built to last, much like Carrie Hassler herself.

Carrie Hassler’s The Distance is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024