(For all back issues go to the Archive)
CHRIS HILLMAN and HERB PEDERSON, At Edwards Barn— Consider this: you may have heard most if not all these tunes before, the original recordings (or even other Hillman-Pedersen versions—it’s not like they have never played these together before) may well have a deserved special place in your hearts and memories, but you have not heard them exactly as you will hear them here. Thus do the songs plant themselves anew in our lives. At Edwards Barn is a moment to treasure.
MOLLIE O’BRIEN & RICH MOORE, Saints & Sinners— Like her brother, Tim O’ Brien, Mollie O’Brien doesn’t recognize a lot of musical boundaries, and has no problem with unburdening herself of an affecting performance in any style she decides to tackle. Saints & Sinners is a highwater mark for her and her husband, Rich Moore, and for the pair a big step forward from 2007’s 900 Baseline in concept and execution.
ROCKIN ACOUSTIC CIRCUS, Lonestar Lullabye— Lonestar Lullabye is an impressive calling card for an extraordinarily talented young band. Nickel Creek made the most of its members’ insatiable musical curiosity and superior musical gifts; whether Rockin Acoustic Circus can or wants to be nearly as adventurous is going to be one of the more interesting stories to follow as these young people approach adulthood and, in essence, learn to fly. They got wings, though. Do they ever have wings.
PETER ROWAN BLUEGRASS BAND, Legacy—Legacy is a low-key masterpiece, at once an impressive showcase for Peter Rowan’s touring Bluegrass Band (Jody Stecher, mandolin; Keith Little, banjo; Paul Knight, bass) and a reminder not only of the high caliber of musicianship Rowan brings to the table as a guitarist (no flash, only tasty, to the point leads and unflagging rhythm) but the strength of his songwriting as well.
FRANK SOLIVAN & DIRTY KITCHEN—You know you’ve got something going for you when the dobro master nonpareil Rob Ickes ordains you “the best new bluegrass band.” Guess what? The estimable Mr. Ickes may have understated the case, if the level of playing, writing and singing on Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s self-titled debut is any indication.
DALE WATSON, Carryin’ On—Determined to be a little less retro than in the past, he ventured into a Nashville studio with some stalwart session players—we’re talking heavyweights on the order of piano master Hargus “Pig” Robbins, guitarist Pete Wade, Glenn Duncan on fiddle, bass man Dennis Crouch, Lloyd Green on pedal steel, Gene Chrisman on drums and the silky voiced Carol Lee Singers on background vocals—and emerges with the thoroughly delightful, eminently fulfilling Carryin’ On, which sounds like nothing so much as the finest mainstream country of the ‘60s, particularly if you remember some of Merle Haggard’s or Porter Wagoner’s albums from that period.