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HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE — AWAKE (Proper Records)

Set to capitalise on their 2016 debut album, Before The Sun Cambridge folk act Hannah Sanders (lead vocals, guitars, Dulcimer) and Ban Savage (vocals, Dobro, guitars) are joined by Jon Thorne (double bass), Burke Carroll (pedal steel), Evan Carson (percussion), Canadian Chris Coole (banjo) and producer David Travers – Smith (horns, organ) plus additional vocals from Oh Susanna (Suzanne Ungerleider; her career hasn't blossomed as much as I once expected), Jess Morgan, Gilmore & Roberts and David Bentley. As before the album was recorded in Toronto, and in Travers - Smith(Madison Violet, Wailin' Jennys) they have a top notch man in charge; the Grammy nominated producer does a sterling job. 

In general Sanders pure and beautiful lead vocals are caressed in tender harmony vocals and immaculate understated Dobro, pedal steel, upright bass, guitars etc. They combine material of their own with I inspired covers of songs from Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg (“Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key”; what a beautiful arrangement and rendition) and they give Pete Seeger’s “One Grain Of Sand” a timely update. Savage is on lead vocals for traditional tune “Santa Fe Trail”, as it is also given nice a run out but they fare even better on their own “Selkie Song” (aided by some sympathetic banjo) and of a slightly mystical feel, “I Met A Man”.  

Title-track “Awake” like so many is notable due to the beautiful, understated production. Savage and the angelic tones of Sanders are warmed in restrained electric guitar, and though solid enough it isn’t necessarily the strongest track. As noted above, the album has among its attributes much beauty and spare, but despite there is always a great deal happening for the listener to explore, absorb and ultimately enjoy.

         

                                                                         Maurice Hope 

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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