Charlie Sizemore

Heartache Looking for a Home

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Charlie Sizemore isn't really a bluegrass singer, but he plays one in the studio. Listen to the song that opens this album, the Sonny Tacket composition "Down in the Quarter." Sizemore and his band play it at a breakneck bluegrass pace, but there's none of the reedy, high-lonesome tone that traditional bluegrass demands: this is a country song and Sizemore croons it like one, regardless of its headlong tempo. (A couple of other selections are written by Alan Jackson and Tom T. Hall, the latter being a particular obsession of Sizemore's.) When Ralph Stanley (Sizemore's former employer) joins him to sing tenor harmony on "Red Wicked Wine," the sound gets quite a bit more bluegrassy, but much of the rest of the album feels much more like acoustic country music. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; Sizemore makes "Feelin' Like El Paso" sound like it was written for him, and his take on Alan Jackson's "Walking the Floor Over Me" milks the cute but heartbroken wordplay just right. "Ashley Judd" is a great example of wry romantic longing, and the title track almost swings even as it weeps. Mandolinist Danny Barnes steps up to the mike with his clawhammer banjo and sings lead vocal on the traditional "Poor Rambler," and anyone who might think that Sizemore and his boys are actually incapable of straight-up acidgrass will be put firmly in his place by the band's barnburning take on "Going to Georgia." But even on that bracingly traditional and straight-ahead tune, Sizemore's vocal is relaxed, warm, and self-assured rather than intense and assertive. That would seem to make him something very rare: a truly unique bluegrass singer.

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