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The album that turned me on to bluegrass (in 1981),
This review is from: Front Porch String Band (Audio CD)
My introduction to bluegrass was via Emmylou's brilliant Roses in the snow, but for a while I regarded it as a novelty. Eventually, I decided to explore further and this was the one that really made me take bluegrass seriously. During the eighties, I played it countless times and it was one of my most-played vinyl albums. I was pleased to be able to upgrade it to CD, on which medium it sounds better than ever (especially as my LP was so worn). Although I don't play it as often these days, it is still one of my favorite bluegrass albums.
Lead singer Claire Lynch has a lovely voice, very similar to Emmylou (probably why I bought it back in 1981), but as Emmylou's music is so different from Claire's (Roses in the snow aside), it's not a problem. Perhaps because this is a band album rather than a Claire solo album, there are a lot of chances for the musicians to shine, although ultimately it is Claire's voice that is the finest instrument of all. Yet, those instrumental breaks are great - at a time when I was a mere bluegrass novice, they taught me what gives bluegrass it's identity.
The songs are a mixture of originals and covers. The covers include If you're ever in Oklahoma (J J Cale), Go my way (Gordon Lightfoot) and Wabash Cannonball (Roy Acuff). The originals include Hills of Alabam, later covered by Kathy Mattea on her Willow in the wind album, with Claire singing backup. The overall feel of the album is upbeat but restrained, so it's quite a mellow album really. Perhaps they could have really cut loose, but it wouldn't have improved it any.
Claire has recorded several excellent albums since this one (with and without the band, although her solo albums usually feature band members). While the quality of Claire's albums now makes it difficult to say which is best, this is still a strong contender for that title. Not that I care - in my mind, Claire is the Queen of Bluegrass although the competition is much hotter these days.
If you like the bluegrass music of Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent or Dolly Parton, give Claire a try. They often sing on each other's records these days (look at the credits for Dolly's Grass is Blue) so they are not really competitors. Between them, they are setting the standard for those that follow.