Husband-and-wife duo Dana and Susan Robinson are based in North Carolina, and from there they take their Appalachian folk music to the world. Playing guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin, they present on this new album a selection of instrumentals and songs, mixing the old with the new, and sounding throughout like masters of their craft. Their natural metier seems to be the warm, homely folkiness that might make them too polite for my ears. Gentle homilies about the charms of an off-grid holiday home or the wonders of the farmers market (this one written by old friend Lui Collins) are indication enough of the tone they seek to strike. However, on his blog Dana pays tribute to folk singer Bill Morrissey – by Dana’s account a hard-drinking plain-talking folkie of the old school – and, in the process, bemoans the subururbanisation of folk music, which seems ironic in the context of some of the song choices on this album. Several aspects of their music making save them from falling too far into this trap, and the first of them might be Dana’s fiddle playing, which resonates with a rich, soulful feel for his material.
His guitar playing has a similarly dignified beauty to it and, generally, there’s an almost sombre beauty in all this music, something that seems to touch on fundamental emotions. Most of all, though, I think I really go for Susan Robinson’s singing. As with the best folk singers she seems to convey real depth of meaning whatever she sings – even the farmers market song sounds profound in her hands, and her take on Who Killed Cock Robin? is surely as fine as any English version out there. The two of them harmonise nicely on several songs but I think it might be the songs without words, such as the starkly beautiful Elk River Blues, where they show they’ve got a musical understanding that runs deeper than words. You don't have to be drunk and angry to make folk music worth hearing, as the Robinsons demonstrate.
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