Cousin Emmy / The New Lost City Ramblers

The New Lost City Ramblers with Cousin Emmy

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Putting this distinctive old-time music together with the New Lost City Ramblers was a great idea. It could even satisfy picky folk music fans that might find the vocal talents of the Ramblers a bit lacking in authenticity. (Those that want to further discuss whether one has to be a coal miner to sing this type of material properly can meet at 8 p.m. at the coffee house.) Listeners who object entirely to this revival group of the '60s and '70s can also approach this album as a safe object, as Tracy Schwarz, Mike Seeger and John Cohen tend to fade so far into the background that the results sound more like a solo album at times. Of course it is good that nobody got in the way of Cousin Emmy, who comes on strong with her musical talent. She has a vocal style that is like Loretta Lynn and Ethel Merman rolled into one, the exact opposite of the archivist nature of a Mike Seeger vocal. On banjo it is more a matter of respect that may have led the fellows to leave their instruments in the cases. Cousin Emmy is a terrific banjo player, but so are all three of them. The decision for Seeger to play only mandolin, with Cohen on guitar and Schwarz and guest George Winston handling the bass duties, may have keep distractions to a minimum, but in the process removed one of the better features of the New Lost City Ramblers, the colorful textures of changing instruments. In terms of highlights, there is one hands-down masterpiece: "Graveyard" is simply one of the most beautiful Appalachian ballads ever recorded.

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