Someone has been a busy bluegrass reviewer in recent days/weeks.
My review of The Del McCoury Band album Del & Woody is up at Country Standard Time. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6027
My review of the vinyl reissue of The New South, the album better known as Rounder 0044, is up at Lonesome Road Review. http://lonesomeroadreview.com/0044-2/
As well, my review of Dave Adkins second album, Dave Adkins, was posted over at Country Standard Time earlier this week. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6026
Rounder Records has released Josh Williams’ latest: Rhonda Vincent’s guitar player, produced by J. D. Crowe, has seldom sounded better. Last summer, seeing and hearing him live with The Rage, I was reminded how strong of a guitar player he is. My review: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6031
I’m busy on several other projects, too. Also over at Lonesome Road Review, you’ll find my review of Jane Kramer’s surprisingly strong (only because I hadn’t previously heard the Asheville singer) album. http://lonesomeroadreview.com/carnival-hopes-jane-kramer/
Jane Kramer Carnival of Hopes
An Americana album in the broadest, truest sense of the label, Ashevillian (is that the proper term? Sounds right to this Canadian) Jane Kramer’s second release takes us from New Orleans gentle barrelhouse (“Why’d I Do That Blues”) to west-coast folk (“Truth Tellin’ Lies), through southern introspection (“Truck Stop Stars”) and country self-recrimination (“Good Woman.”) It is a journey well merited.
Reminding one of the type of songs Dar Williams has written (with less of a sly, acerbic wink,) Kramer reaches the depths of honesty that allows each number to appear simultaneously autobiographical and universal. “Good Woman,” one of several standout tracks, finds our protagonist walking along river stones, claiming herself as the mistress of her misfortune admitting “If I don’t get right with me, there ain’t no loving arms going to carry me home.” Searching for personal salvation, Kramer doesn’t fall into the easy solution of a man in tight-fitting jeans, no matter how many nights it takes to scrape away the baggage of decisions poorly realized.
Her band, comprised primarily of folks—like Kramer—new to these ears, is spot-on. Drummer River Guerguerian has just the right touch (give “Good Woman” a listen) while the various guitars of Pace Conner never intrude on the intimacy of the moment. The Steep Canyon Rangers’ Nicky Sanders adds a bit of fiddle.
“Down South” is a smoky tune with a shade of bluegrass about its edges. Michael Evers takes care of the ‘grassy touches (Dobro, banjo, mandolin) while Kramer delivers on a promise to give all that she has, “and a little more.” The lead track “Half Way Gone” swings with an old-time Texas-vibe, claiming there isn’t “enough brown liquor in the whole state of Tennessee to smooth out the jagged edge on you or shut the mouth on me.” With an appealing vocal lilt and a range of emotion, Kramer keeps us interested song after song.
Relatively unheralded, Jane Kramer is one of the dozens upon hundreds fighting the good fight within the independent core of what used to be called country music. Give her a listen: she is worth it.
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