Over the course of their careers, Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum have shown a deep appreciation for the well-written song. Their original work is literate and thoughtful, devoid of the trite repetitious rhymes of many tunes around them. The work they choose of others is as well crafted as their original material. They give the songs of others the same attention and care when interpreting them that they give to their own tunes.
Guest House demonstrates this perfectly. They have written songs inspired by the music of Woody Guthrie and the life of Bill Monroe. Willie Poor Boy is written to the tune of Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd with a new story in the lyric. Woody would have liked that, I'll bet. O My Malissa is a song Lewis wrote about the courtship of Bill Monroe's parents, inspired by Richard D. Smith's wonderful book on Monroe's Life, Can't You Hear Me Calling. Its old timey flavor is perfectly blended with the fiddle tune, How Old Are You?
The covers are selected and performed with the same care and attention given the original work. Tunes from some of the finest (not necessarily best-known) writers around have been selected. It is exciting the see the work of fine writers like Kate McLeod, Si Kahn and Claudia Schmidt on this album.
The late Jim Ringer's tune Tramps and Hawkers is given wistful treatment. Lewis and Rozum fitfully describe the tune as a "Steinbeck short-story with music." Very much so, the tune gets fresh legs with their treatment. It is great to hear a tune from the pen of Ringer, who was a true poet.
Hazel Dickens' work is featured with a My Heart's Own Love and Scars from an Old Love. Outside of Hazel herself, I don't think anyone does a better job with the songs of Hazel Dickens.
Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum have the skill to keep the focus on the song in their concerts and recordings. It is their appreciation of a well written song, whether it be theirs or someone else's, that rings through in this album.
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