Old Photograph

Randy Kohrs

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Old Photograph Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

Traditional bluegrass follows fairly strict guidelines, so the success or failure of a bluegrass recording comes down to three things: the quality of the instrumental work, the quality of the vocal work, and whether the songs say anything that hasn't already been said a million times in a bluegrass record. Randy Kohrs has all three areas locked down. As a top-shelf dobro player, he's contributed to hundreds of other artists' sessions in addition to cutting his own music and from that experience he's learned how to keep an eye on the big picture. He's also learned how to choose his partners carefully: Kohrs has surrounded himself here with other ace pickers who have little trouble taking his compositions above and beyond what might be expected of them. As a vocalist Kohrs is a purist -- he doesn't go for the old-school Bill Monroe falsetto or other clich├ęs of the genre -- he just keeps it natural, and that honesty comes in handy when delivering his lifelike tales. Of course, it wouldn't be bluegrass without perfect harmony, and Kohrs has got that covered as well, sharing the microphones with a number of fine harmonizers and splitting the lead on the homey ballad "Don't Let Your Wounded Heart Come Between Us" with the wonderful Rhonda Vincent. (American Idol fans may find it a mite curious that the high harmony on the gospel "Can You Give Me a Drink" is credited to one Melinda Doolittle, the much-loved castoff of season six.) Finally, that leaves the songs. Nine of the dozen are co-penned by Kohrs, who demonstrates a proven penchant for framing his vivid sepia-toned stories in neat, expressive packages. Whether prowling the Old West or love gone missing, matters of the spirit or the bonds of family, Randy Kohrs tells that story till it's been told as thoroughly as it's ever going to be.

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