Siamese Cousins, |
2 Chairs, No Waiting
(Mountain Roads, 2012)
Not just another bluegrass album by any stretch, 2 Chairs, No Waiting offers up an original approach that expands tradition without ever contorting it. Actually, bluegrass is just one, and in fact lesser, item in the mix. First and foremost is Edwin Lacy's beautifully played clawhammer -- mountain-style - banjo, capably enhanced by Scott Freeman's expertly executed fiddle and mandolin. Both men sing as well, and well. That's the core of the band. Other gifted players show up from time to time to fill out the sound. Not least of the participants is the sublime vocalist Dori Freeman.
Call this neo-oldtime music if you want, and that gets close enough. The 13 cuts feature songs and instrumentals, all tastefully chosen and picked, comprising originals, traditionals and covers. The CD gets off to a strong start with a creative arrangement of the perennial "Lonesome Road Blues," which won't remind you much of any other you've heard. Even so, it still seems authentically a product of the hills and hollers from which the original emerged long ago. It takes extraordinary musicianship to produce innovation within existing stylistic boundaries. Lacy and Freeman, who also participated in Mountain Roads' remarkable Close Kin project, which fused bluegrass and oldtime music (see my review here on 5 November 2011), are more than up to the task before them.
Eminently deserving of mention, too, is Dori Freeman's reading of "The Way I Feel," always among the very best of Gordon Lightfoot's songs but here given a particularly knowing, deep reading that causes it to feel like a venerable Appalachian lament born in the British Isles. I suspect that Lightfoot himself had something like that in mind when he wrote it, but his smooth tenor voice, while pleasant and serviceable enough, couldn't carry the intended weight of ages. Freeman sings "Way I Feel" the way it is supposed to be sung. Once you've taken that in, get ready for her magnificent interpretation of the Carter Family standard "Gold Watch & Chain." You may find yourself wondering for a moment if you've ever heard the song before now.
Each year I am fortunate to hear more than my share of fine music. Even so, 2 Chairs, No Waiting is special for all kinds of reasons: artistry, soulfulness, imagination and an uncanny ability to look backward and forward at the same time while betraying no audible discomfort.
music review by
8 December 2012
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