Mary Flower

Bywater Dance

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It's not just that Mary Flower fingerpicks an elegantly mean fingerstyle blues, ragtime, and jazz guitar. And it's not just the gentle, controlled warmth of her voice. There's something else special going on here, and it may have to do with the fact that she traveled from her home base of Portland to a studio on the south end of New Orleans to make this record, and was joined in the process by such local A-listers as Henry Butler (piano), Jon Cleary (piano, organ), and Dr. Michael White (clarinet). The music that came out of these sessions is unfailingly sweet, hot, and sassy -- not a single track fails to impress and several are deeply moving. Her rendition of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" is brilliant, and her original guitar composition "La Grippe" is both subtly complex and viscerally exciting. Check out the wonderful brass band accompaniment that fills up the space behind her guitar on "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues" and Cleary's spooky Hammond organ on the dark "Last Kind Word Blues." But every track on this album has something about it that will give you shivers, and taken as a whole this is one of the most satisfying albums of the year.

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