Flyinshoes Review

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LAURIE LEWIS —BLOSSOMS (Spruce and Maple Music)

www.laurielewis.com
www.spruceandmaplemusic.com

Boy, oh boy, what a beautiful album this is! From the stunning opening a cappella piece ‘How Can I Keep From Singing?’ the benchmark for the album is set to never waver. Although the final track, ‘Sirens’ isn’t something I‘m too enamoured with. However, the music previous to it features a feast of good stuff that borders on faultless.
There aren’t too many acts brave enough and, who could set away an album with such conviction. Plus with her old friend Kathy Kallick with whom she goes back to when they were in the Good Ol’ Persons and regular Tom Rozum in tow the arrangements are most exquisite.
What makes Lewis so special? For one her music crosses boundaries with ease akin to a kid crossing the street as folk, country and bluegrass merge into one. Two; she is a wonderful fiddle player, guitarist, vocalist and knows how to make an album that combines not only the above categories yet a smattering of other flavours too without losing focus.
While she pens the majority of tunes, and why not since she is a great songwriter Lewis also finds room for ‘Lark In The Morning’ from fellow singer-songwriter Kate MacLeod, to which she does justice. While with her excelling on twin-fiddle (w/ Brittany Hass) a poem by Wendell Berry ‘Burley Coulter’s Song For Helen Branch’ is converted into a song you could easily take as a Lewis original. Such the fashion it unerringly skips along, and has her sing as good as at any time on the album.
Like a few more Laurie takes time to acknowledge the work of California’s late pioneering singer-songwriter, Kate Wolf on covering her song ‘Unfinished Life’. A song deep in melodic hues a great beauty is registered as Rozum helps out on harmony vocals alongside Alex Hargreaves (fiddle), Todd Philips (bass), fresh from working with Joan Baez and the impeccable acoustic guitar of David Grier. By way of increasing her ratio of fiddle playing on the album Lewis includes two splendid instrumentals; her own ‘Sophie’s House’ (a twin-fiddle piece with an act I am unfamiliar, Suzy Thompson) and traditional tune ‘Beaver Creek’ that features her banjo player Craig Smith. While ‘Return The Fire’ is another a cappella track and, like in the past it has Lewis take up something she is most passionate about. This time it is in the form of Vietnam Veterans, then to give some light and shade ‘Here Today’ has a fabulous lilt as Tom Rozum (mandolin, vocals) Patrick Sauber (banjo, vocals) and her co-writing partner and also band member Scott Huffman on vocals entwine with lush fiddle (Chad Manning) and upright bass (Andrew Conklin). Her use of a couple of phrases from an old gospel tune fit perfectly as once again she strikes top form!
With Johnny Cash’s ‘Train Of Love’ (recorded for a Johnny Cash tribute) burning up the tracks as fiddle (Darol Anger) and the dazzling slide guitar of Roy Rogers and the boys —that include Billy Lee Lewis (drums) plus the pure heart-tugging ‘Chains Of Letters’ that sees guitarist Nina Gerber pick some fabulous notes and the acoustic bass of Todd Sickafoose lend sympathetic support Lewis’ true to life lyrics register deep into the mind of the listener.
The late Kate Wolf may be reaping plaudits and, quite rightly so as California’s finest ever of her kind, but Laurie Lewis has a bunch of songs equal to them!
As a variation, the entertaining ‘Cool Your Jets’ and the marathon affair ‘Sirens’ find a home alongside ‘The Roughest Road’ (with Tim O’Brien on vocals) and a sombre ‘Tell Me True’ that was previously on Birdsong. A benefit recording for Audubon Canyon Ranch (a bird sanctuary in Northern California) like with the ‘Cool Your Jets’ that also has spoken word from NPR’s Tom and Ray Magliozzi the beautiful harmony vocals of the Burns Sisters adorn it like blossom fruit trees in spring.
Blossoms is a must buy for fans of acoustic singer-songwriter recordings, and a good place to start for those unfamiliar with Laurie and friends who accompany her.

Maurice Hope





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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
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Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
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14 pts.
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Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
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Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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