Nora Jane Struthers

Nora Jane Struthers

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Nora Jane Struthers Review

by Alex Henderson

When the use of synthesizers was becoming increasingly common back in the early '80s, some folks argued that electronica would ultimately be the death of acoustic music. But time has demonstrated that electronica was simply an option -- not a requirement of some sort -- and that the audience for acoustic music remained. In fact, it doesn't get much more acoustic-oriented than this self-titled 2010 release by singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers, who thrives on the use of traditional bluegrass instruments (including fiddles, banjos, and mandolins) even though she isn't a bluegrass artist in the strict sense. Struthers, rather, is best described as a folk-rock/Americana artist who has been greatly influenced by country (including the old-time acoustic country of the '20s and '30s) and bluegrass. Some electric pedal steel guitar probably would have sounded great on this 45-minute CD, which is her first album as a solo artist. But that is merely speculation; what can be said with certainty is that Struthers (who wrote everything on this album except the traditional "Say Darlin' Say") really shines in an acoustic setting -- and all those bluegrass instruments serve her well on rootsy originals such as "Greenbrier County," "Evelyn," "Look Out on the Mountain," and the Patsy Montana-ish "Cowgirl Yodel #3." Struthers' evocative lyrics are full of rural imagery, which is interesting when you consider that she grew up in New Jersey (although Virginia is her birthplace) and was a school teacher in Brooklyn. And when she sings about life in rural and small-town America, she does so without the slightest trace of irony. This is unapologetic roots music, pure and simple -- and Struthers shows considerable promise on this excellent CD.

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