Music From Rancho DeVille stands as a testament to the life and work of guitarist Charles Sawtelle, packed full of good songs and instrumentals. After spending years as a member of Hot Rize, Sawtelle operated a studio and produced albums for Front Range and Leftover Salmon. The 16 cuts that comprise Music From Rancho DeVille are made up of a number of sessions and settings, featuring Laurie Lewis, Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, and other luminaries. Norman Blake and David Grisman join Sawtelle on three Carter Family songs, including the lovely "The Storms Are on the Ocean." This cut produces good solo work all around and nice harmony between Blake and Tim O'Brien. Mandolinist Tom Rozum and fiddler Darol Anger join in on "Aragon Mill," a poignant lyric about what happens when work dries up in a small town. Sawtelle's country-flavored vocals, and Rozum and Mollie O'Brien's harmony, prove just right to carry the emotion of the piece. The brooding, minor key "Jolie Faye," inspires an extended, soulful guitar solo backed by the insistent fiddle work of Michael Doucet. Several cuts, including "The Newz Reel" and "Chez Seychelles," show off the instrumental skill of all involved. The album ends on a solemn, spiritual note with "Angel Band," a haunting tune with nice group harmony on the chorus. The bagpipe fade-out is a lovely touch. The liner notes include an essay by Pete Wernick and reflections by Sawtelle's many friends. This album will be warmly appreciated by fans of the numerous musicians mentioned above, and is easy to recommend to lovers of great acoustic music.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.