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Waterloo, Tennessee

March 13, 2007 | Format: MP3
Also available in CD Format
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Format: Audio CD
Uncle Earl is an all-woman, old-time music group. They often refer to themselves as the g'Earls. Their fans have been nicknamed g'Earlfriends, but I think I'll pass on that, although I am a fan. Formed in 2000, Uncle Earl had a few changes of lineup in the early years, but by the end of 2003 the current lineup was complete.

Like all good music, this CD repays repeated listening. There are 16 tracks listed, but it is really 15, because Bonaparte is an intro to Bony on the Isle of St. Helena (You certainly don't want to download an MP3 of Bonaparte by itself). That's still a healthy serving of Country fare, and it gives them scope for experimentation. For instance, Kristen Andreasson shows off her clog dancing skills on one track. I had always thought of cloggies as being essentially English, but if you can have clog dances on an English village green, why not on Bluegrass? Another innovation is Abigail Washburn, who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, hollering an accompaniment in that language over the lively tune of Streak o' Fat, Streak o' Lean. That's surely a first.

Abigail has a beautiful voice, but all 4 g'Earls can ably carry a tune.

John Paul Jones's production sacrifices the words to the music at times, allowing the vocals to be drowned out. The idea, I suppose, is to give things a spontaneous, live performance feel. I would have preferred more emphasis on clarity than atmosphere, more of a studio quality sound, but some listeners will disagree. D&P Blues features `some party noise' in the background, but that has some legitimacy when you realize D&P stands for drinking and promiscuity.

This CD is a foot-tappin', boot-stompin', clog-bashin' treat for lovers of traditional music, and is full of interest even for those who have not yet taken to the genre.
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Format: Audio CD
As unusual as it is for a relatively new group's second offering to surpass their first, the women known as Uncle Earl have pulled it off. Their blend of wonderful traditional pieces and great original works, performed with joy and virtuosity are a marvel to behear and behold it you're lucky enough to catch them in concert and don't even get me started on their unique harmonies... Do yourself and acoustic music a favor, buy it.
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This is the second album by the current line-up of the "g'Earls" of Uncle Earl (a third album by an earlier lineup is hard to get ahold of). It's to be hoped that the current g'Earls are all aboard for the long haul--as long as they can turn out material like this, they will be on the must-hear list of any fan of bluegrass, old-time country or any kind of "traditional" music.

All four members of the quartet are accomplished instrumentalists. KC Groves, the co-founder of Uncle Earl, primarily mandolin, mixed with some guitar. Rayna Gellert is the group's fiddler; she can dazzle you with virtuosity or take a more supporting role as needed. Abigail Washburn plays a delightful clawhammer banjo. And Kristin Andreassen is the "utility g'Earl" who moves with ease from guitar to fiddle to banjo ukulele to harmonica, and will even throw in a little clog-dancing. Erin Youngberg joins the group on bass for several numbers.

All four g'Earls are competent vocalists, who harmonize extremely well together, and two of them are more than competent as soloists. Abby Washburn, as several reviews have noted, has a beautiful voice with some of the heart-breaking quality of Emmylou Harris. I could listen to her sing "The Last Goodbye" all day long. And while Kristin Andreassen doesn't have a huge voice, her singing has a way of growing on you. There's just an intangible "rightness" to how she covers numbers like "The Birds Were Singing of You," an old Carter Family tune.

What makes "Waterloo, Tennessee" a true classic album is the abundance of truly memorable tracks. Besides the two I've already mentioned, there are several more. "One True" is an exuberant affair that could well become the group's "anthem.
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I've been hearing their music on a local radio program for the past few years, and I've searched for it in my local music store, but that was a vain effort. Until one day I stumbled across this while shopping for another album. I knew right away-loving their work-that I was going to buy it. I love them so much-I purchased this instead of what I originally intended to buy. I love every song. Including their original compositions. They respect the old-time tradition, while at the same time giving it new life. "Streak o' Fat, Streak o' Lean" is proof of this, with Abigail Washburn doing the calling in Chinese. I never would have thought it, but it actually works. Another favorite of mine is the fiddle tune "Sisters of the Road". I also enjoyed "Wallflower", "My Epitaph", and "The Birds Were Singing of You", as well as "Buonaparte", which is done in the style of old shape-note hymns. The other track worth checking out on here is the jazzy\blues-infused, "Easy in the Early( Until Sundown)". I highly recommend this album.
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Format: Audio CD
I like that this cd has its dark moments (The Last Goodbye, My Epitaph, The Birds were Singing of You), but also manages to find room to get frisky (Black-Eyed Susie, Streak O' Lean/Streak of Fat, Easy in the Early). I often find myself effortlessly identifying with the characters in these songs. The vocal chemistry of these gals is extraordinary and I like the steady rotation of lead vocal duties. And of course, this cd is packed full of fiddles, banjos, violins, acoustic guitars, and mandolins which are played just as sharply as the singing. A sterling addition to any bluegrass collection.
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