From the earliest days of bluegrass music, the style has been largely defined by the sound of the male voice -- the high, keening tenor of Bill Monroe, the rougher and richer sound of Ralph Stanley, the silky crooning of Lester Flatt. But women have also been involved since those days (remember that accordion player Monroe had in his band early on?) and in recent years they have begun coming to the forefront, putting a different spin on the celebrated "high lonesome" sound that has always typified the genre. No one has done more to bring that development about than Dale Ann Bradley, whose third album nicely encapsulates the blend of respectful traditionalism and forward-looking modernism that has made it possible for woman-led bands to make a place for themselves in the male-dominated world of bluegrass. If your preferences run to hard-edged traditional bluegrass, then she's got you covered: "Julia Belle" is a brilliant original composition written in a strictly traditional style, as is "Run Rufus Run," another Bradley composition that tells the true story of her cousin, a young and reluctant moonshine runner in the mountains of Kentucky. If you want something more unusual, then check out her high-speed bluegrass adaptation of the Memphis soul classic "I Can't Stand the Rain," or her more stately take on "Me and Bobby McGee." And if your tastes run to even more modern "newgrass" sounds, then you'll want to check out the lovely "Live Forever." The gospel material is a mixed bag on this album -- her version of the hymn "Pass Me Not" is soft and sweetly gorgeous, but her rendition of "Heaven's Mercy Railroad" doesn't have the oomph one might expect from a song that combines a gritty depiction of slavery with celestially aspirational gospel music. Overall, this is a brilliant third effort from one of modern bluegrass music's finest talents.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson