Alice Gerrard

Calling Me Home

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While Alice Gerrard is well known in traditional music circles thanks to her pioneering work with Hazel Dickens and her editorship of The Old-Time Herald, no one can accuse her of over-recording. Her last solo album, after all, was Pieces of My Heart, released in 1996. Calling Me Home, then, is a welcome addition of what one has come to expect from Gerrard's slender catalog: sensitive readings of old-time classics against a backdrop of spare acoustic music. The success of a song like "Old Virginia Hills" doesn't come from a radical new approach, but from the simplicity of Gerrard's down-to-earth vocal, the guitar and mandolin backing, and the presence of singer Brad Leftwich on the choruses. To borrow an overused term, the results sound natural. On occasion, Gerrard steps away from strict old-time to deliver slightly more modern fare, though it's unlikely that anyone but the strictest traditionalist will notice. There's a great version of the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming" and a bluesy take on Hank Williams' "Weary Blues from Waiting." Within the context of the vocals and instrumental work, however, one would never mistake either song as '50s-styled country music. While Gerrard's tendency to record sporadically may be connected with the excellence of the albums she releases, Calling Me Home will leave listeners wishing they were more frequent.

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