Tara Nevins Wood and Stone Sugar Hill
Although she has been performing with Donna the Buffalo for some two decades, outside a brief flirtation around their Jim Lauderdale collaboration of several years back, before Wood and Stone, I was pretty ignorant about Tara Nevins.
Sadly, I didn’t even recognize her name when the album arrived in its nondescript plain yellow-padded envelope last month; the disc sat ignored for more than a few weeks. Once again, my bad.
If you’ve read this far, you likely already know more about Tara Nevins than I could possibly tell you, so let me be brief. The Cajun-flavoured “All I Ever Needed” is my new favourite song this week and Wood and Stone contains half-a-dozen songs easily as appealing as that slice of enchanted sustenance. “You’re Still Driving that Truck” may not be a hit for Nevins- not that it couldn’t or shouldn’t be- but I can hear someone like Miranda Lambert taking hold of it, making it her own, and getting some airplay.
Not as up tempo but every bit as well constructed and engaging are songs such as “Snowbird” (which features the aforementioned Lauderdale on duet vocals, and who has his own Sugar Hill album coming out next month) and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” The latter song, a jazz standard popularized by Billie Holliday and others, is retooled by Nevins as a lonesome mountain ballad accompanied as she is by Crooked Jade-Rose Sinclair on banjo.
While the album largely consists of originals, three of the album’s final four songs are covers, be they very creative and unconventional covers, as in the case of “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Van Morrison’s full-throated “The Beauty of the Days Gone By” is softened but not weakened in Nevins’s treatment, serving as an appropriate foil to Nevins’s own preceding “Tennessee River.” The traditional “Down South Blues” is recast as a poppy, 60s country song, the kind of thing you may have heard on the flip of a Jeannie C. Riley hit.
I should likely write more about Nevins’s fiddling, but I’m so taken with her voice, there doesn’t seem to be much point in further fawning, however well-intentioned.
Nevins’s world is certainly not all lightness and flowers, but she never succumbs to wallowing in the murk for too long. The result is a challenging, multi-dimensional album that should appeal to folks who enjoy Rosanne Cash’s more playful side, although Diana Jones is perhaps a more representative comparison.
The more I listen to Wood and Stone, the more I find to appreciate; I suspect I’m going to be listening to this one well into the fall.
As always, thanks for visiting at Fervor Coulee. Donald