Not so very long ago, the Rural Rhythms label issued the pristine Common Strings CD Somewhere in Glory (here), a disc of unbelievably good music as would make the devil think twice about his ways, and now, not content to rest on its bluegrass gospel laurels, it's trotting out another disc of heavenly down-home music in this just-as-glorious disc by Lou Reid & Carolina. Upbeat, sparkling, harmonious to a fare-thee-well, Reid and the rest of the quartet (with Ron Stewart sitting in on fiddle) serve up an energetic Sunday smorgasbord of righteous music-making to tap your feet to while saving souls.
The inclusion of an a cappella doo-wop barbershop quartet Its Hard to Stumble (When You're down on your Knees) is a surprise and treat, an exercise in harmonic purity and smile-provoking cleverness. Then there are heart-warming tear jerkers like Daddy Tried, emotional cuts to evoke Norman Rockwell images tempered with a dose of human failure. Each one of these ensemble players is a master of his or her instrument, vocal chords included, and they imbue every cut with joy or finely expressed sorrow and pensivity. Christy Reid possesses one of those bird on a wire voices with a high end tremolo that sends shivers up the spine as she encants solo; you want to listen for hours.
And let me tell you, brother and sister, you don't have to be Christian to love this music, though I suppose it might help a tad. The musicianship and artfulness of every bar and measure is so stratospheric that they can't help but provoke intense admiration for such discipline and talent. Likewise, no matter one's religious persuasion or lack of it, it's a rare American soul that doesn't have a soft spot for this kind of music, hide it as he or she may, and all it takes to renew or reveal that is a listen to Reid & Carolina's version of In the Sweet By and By, a bouncy flowing arrangement that makes the standard breathe new life.
As I observed of the Common Strings' stunning music, I will likewise aver of Lou Reid & Carolina: if you think it was just the Dillards and Flatt & Scruggs who breathed life into the country-rock wavefront back in the 60s and 70s, I'm here to tell you that those same Byrds, Eagles, Doobies, and Burrito boys were laying ears to this spiritual genre of bluegrass as well because it contains a mean mess of an indefinable something that nothing else does. Listen here and see what I mean.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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