Lainie Marsh

The Hills Will Cradle Thee

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Emmylou Harris, who gave Lainie Marsh her greatest recognition by recording her song "A Ways to Go" as the lead-off track of her 1993 album Cowgirl's Prayer, describes Marsh as "a cross between Laura Nyro and Rickie Lee Jones, with a bluegrass element lurking." A more accurate description would be to call her a cross between Maria Muldaur and Patsy Cline, with the bluegrass element front and center. Marsh, a West Virginia native who has kicked around the L.A. and Nashville music scenes, has a baby-doll-alto full of rounded vowels and a headful of reminiscences about the West Virginia of her parents and grandparents. In her songs, she constantly refers to a rural dream world containing broken-down jalopies, sweet alcoholics, Jesus, and lots of coal mining. Her husband, Larry Jefferies, constructs country/bluegrass arrangements to accompany his wife's reveries, with mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and plenty of guitars strummed and sawed in an approximation of a mountain hoedown. Even if Marsh injects the occasional foreign reference into her conception ("Little Samba Queen" depicts an obsession with "The Girl from Ipanema," a song that must have made it even into the West Virginia hills in her childhood) and drapes the whole in a haze of memory (or, more likely, fantasy), it's still a consistent one, and she addresses it with warmth and familiarity.

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