Laurie Lewis

Guest House

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There was a time when Laurie Lewis was seen as the queen of West Coast bluegrass, as if it was a different animal from Southern bluegrass. It's not, of course, and these days Lewis is recognized as one of the music's major practitioners. This showcases her vocal talents and puts her playing on the back burner, and she can certainly use her voice, especially on the two Hazel Dickens songs here, with "Scars from an Old Love" being so good you actually hold your breath during the song. That she's also a strong writer is demonstrated by three of her own compositions, with "O My Malissa" being the best, the tale of the courtship between the late great Bill Monroe's parents. It would be unfair to play down Tom Rozum's contributions, as he offers some scintillating mandolin work that's an absolute joy, and provides a perfect vocal foil for Lewis on tracks like "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and "Since You Went Away." They both get to shine vocally on "Quiet Hills," an a cappella piece that's made of fragile beauty. Closing with an instrumental medley was a good cleansing idea, and everyone obviously has a glorious time with it, Lewis' fiddle work on the first piece atmospheric and moving. All in all, a joyous, often lovely record.

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