Esther Haynes has had a fairly active gig schedule in and around the Washington, D.C., area. For her first album, she has hooked up with members of another D.C.-based musical aggregation, the Resonators, who emulate the style of bluegrass and jug bands with slide guitars, violin, and harmonica. The group is augmented from time to time by trumpet, tuba, and other horns. The singer and the band meet to present a varied program of standard pop and blues material, and the result is quite pleasing. Haynes has a slight voice, with limited range. Without heavy vocal chords, singing the blues can be a demanding undertaking. But Haynes pulls it off as she deals with the lyrics in a simple, straightforward, matter-of-fact manner, but always with a sparkle in her voice. No down in the dumps stuff here. What the listener gets is a simple musical recitation of the stories the lyrics tell without vocal adornments. Sympathetic arrangements are a major factor in setting the stage for the kind of honest, unembellished delivery favored by the singer. "Stars Fell on Alabama" has Mike Davis' flügelhorn matched up with Tad Marks' violin and Bob Tublin's guitar to create an harmonic structure which fits with Haynes' voice quite well. The bluegrass underpinnings come through clearly on most tunes, such as "Mama's Gone, Goodbye." "After You've Gone" has Haynes accompanying herself on banjo with Nevada Newman taking the break on guitar. "St. Louis Blues" gets the full New Orleans treatment, with growling, muted trumpet and wailing clarinet punctuating and contrasting Haynes' down-home vocalizing. This CD is a highly listenable offering of standard and traditional material done with a twang.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan