Ron Block

Walking Song

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Ron Block is a world-class banjo player, and he has anchored Alison Krauss' band Union Station for years now, but he's also a fine guitarist and a fine, deeply philosophical and spiritual songwriter, and his calm, everyman voice is perfectly suited to his songs and approach. He doesn't put out solo albums very frequently, and this one, Walking Song, is only his third in a dozen years. It's a good one, too, a warm, easy-paced gem that is graceful and sturdy, and timeless in its own way. Save for a trio of traditional tunes, including driving instrumental versions of "Devil in the Strawstack" and "Shortnin' Bread," all of the songs here were written by Block with lyrics by Rebecca Reynolds. The two met in a theological discussion group online, and while a musical collaboration between the two would seem improbable, it works, and several of these songs are stunningly good, including the lovely and romantic "Summer's Lullaby"; the rushing, relentless, and perfect "Nickel Tree Line"; and "Let There Be Beauty," which is the song of a poet if ever there was one. Block's arrangements are simple and unadorned, and with members of Union Station aboard, as well as Krauss and other fine musicians like Sam Bush, Dan Tyminski, and Jerry Douglas, there's appropriate energy and sturdiness on everything here. Reynolds' lyrics can run at times into whimsical, ornate territory, but the songs don't really suffer for it, and Block's singing (and playing) is so sure and suited to this material that it may even be an odd strength, because there is a kind of joy to these songs, a bouncing, hopeful joy that makes this one of Block's best solo outings. Here's hoping he and Reynolds work together again soon.

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