Pam Gadd

Benefit of Doubt

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Grammy-winning singer, guitarist, banjo picker, and songwriter Pam Gadd blends traditional bluegrass and hardcore country here, to produce music that will please both old-timers and youngsters with its verve and drive. Gadd also steps out with her songwriting, with originals that add the emotional depth of a folky singer/songwriter to her usual strong melodies. "Until She Makes It Home" is a bluegrass ballad that muses on the less desirable effects of a long life, the loneliness of outliving your friends, your family, and even your pets. Dale Ann Bradley and Nancy Given Gardner add their sorrowful harmonies to the chorus to up the emotional ante. Gadd's poignant lead vocal sounds like its fighting back the teardrops. "The Only Thing Left Between Us" is a sentimental country song that looks back on an old love with regret over all the words unsaid and deeds undone. The minimal backing keeps the focus on Gadd's disconsolate vocal. "Farewell Wagon Master," a tribute to her former boss and friend Porter Wagoner, is also delivered with bare-bones accompaniment, just Gadd's guitar, bass, and Wanda Vick Burchfield's understated fiddle. It's another vocal tour de force with Gadd smiling through her sorrow. The lyric quotes a line from Wagoner's "Green Green Grass of Home" without sounding hokey, no mean feat. On the brighter side you get "Hit the Highway," a driving song about the joys of the road featuring the lightning-fast runs of guitarist Bryan Sutton; "Home Sweet Highway," a tune reprised from Gadd's first album with the all-woman group Wild Rose; and "There Ain't Nothing We Can't Do," an ode to true love and fidelity inspired by Gadd's parents. Cover tunes include a ragtime-flavored take on Jimmy Martin's "Hold Whatcha Got"; a duet with Shenandoah's Marty Raybon on the old Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty cheatin' song "After the Fire Is Gone"; the Osborne Brothers' "Tennessee Hound Dog," a Felice and Boudleaux Bryant composition goosed into overdrive by Andy Leftwich's fiddling and Gadd's banjo; and Dolly Parton's "Applejack." Parton joins Gadd on the tune, delivering her usual spunky performance and giving Gadd a chance to show off her clawhammer banjo style.

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