Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands / Laurie Lewis

The Golden West

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Laurie Lewis is a leading practitioner of what certain scribes once referred to as California bluegrass, a more cosmopolitan version of traditional music that shouldn't be confused with contemporary bluegrass. While Lewis' brand of bluegrass may lack the high lonesome authenticity of Flatt & Scruggs, it possesses an eclectic, proficient core lacking in the more polished sounds of contemporary bluegrass. The Golden West finds fiddler Lewis and her cohorts, mandolinist Tom Rozum, guitaristScott Huffman, banjoist Craig Smith, and bassist Todd Phillips, in fine form, full of vim and vigor, pep and pizzazz. The album kicks off with the free-wheeling "Your Eyes," a jazzy-bluegrass ride with a vibrant acoustic arrangement. Lewis' warm, natural lead imbues the songs with a fun sense of abandoned, while Rozum and Huffman's harmony on the choruses tops it off with a high-flying flourish. Following "Your Eyes" The Golden West takes a more traditional turn, with Rozum and Huffman's more countrified voices taking their turn at the microphone. Even Lewis' fine version of "Rank Strangers" leans closer to Kentucky than California. Other material, like "A Hand to Hold" on which Lewis shares the choruses with Linda Ronstadt, stretch these boundaries, however, and John Hartford's "Goodbye Waltz" brings The Golden West to a gentle close.

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