River of No Return

Stephanie Davis

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River of No Return Review

by Mark Deming

As befits a woman who was born a fourth-generation Montana resident, Stephanie Davis' album River of No Return is country & western that favors the "western," both in terms of its musical approach and lyrical outlook. Backed by a small but empathetic acoustic combo who know how to put some swing in their step (anchored by Rich O'Brien on guitar and mandolin and Tom Morrell on steel guitar), Davis moves back and forth between songs of the western life, such as "Salt River Valley" and "Prairie Lullaby," and moral fables (such as "Give a Little Back" and "The Gift") that manage to sound heartfelt without becoming preachy in the process. While the album's production is a bit on the lean side, the performances sound fine, and Davis' voice, like her songs, manages to be both subtle and expressive, and her c&w material is convincing without losing touch with the easygoing swing of her earlier set of jazz and pop standards, I'm Pullin' Through (she's not a bad fiddler, either). Riders in the Sky contribute their typically superb harmonies on two cuts. A modest but enjoyable effort that suggests Davis is a talent worth watching.

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