Liz Downing, Mark Jickling & Rebby Sharp,
The Book of Amy
(Thick Syrup, 2013)

Washington, D.C., musicians Liz Downing, Mark Jickling and Rebby Sharp come from all kinds of musical backgrounds -- punk, art-rock, rock, what have you -- so it's no surprise that they've teamed up to make a traditional folk record. The Book of Amy is composed of mountain music -- "Sally Ann," "Cripple Creek" -- old-time country, such as the Carter Family's "Answer to Weeping Willow," and a lot more.

It's not a musical time capsule, though. The band plays these songs, rather than recreating them as they were or, in the case of those that predate recording, as we imagine they were. They interpret, bringing their own life, ideas and experiences to them. The album respects tradition and reflects it but is not captured in it. Neither can you say this is modern music -- there's no electric instruments, no drums, no synth touches. No, this is more a modern symphony orchestra playing Bach on period instruments: it is both modern and old simultaneously.

Timeless, you might say.

The vocalists love the songs they are singing too much to try to overpower them. They have enough musical and life experience to recognize that the song is more important than the singer, so they try to bring the tunes and lyrics forward, so that they are the vehicle for the song, not the destination.

The playing, throughout, is first rate.

If you like folk music, you'll love this album. If you don't, well, these are good enough to make you change your mind.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

1 February 2014

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