Uncle Earl

Waterloo, Tennessee

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Few acoustic bands manage to achieve (let alone maintain) the kind of balance that, based on the evidence of their third album, seems to come pretty naturally to the four young women of Uncle Earl: playing music based in old-timey string band tradition that holds an ancient flavor without parodying old-timey sounds, and that brings in modern influences without sounding self-consciously hip. Combining traditional fiddle tunes with modern compositions, and sometimes blending the two by adding new lyrics to old melodies or coming up with new and unusual musical juxtapositions (the shape-note song "Buonaparte" segues seamlessly into the music hall song "Bony on the Isle of St. Helena," for example), Uncle Earl pays homage to the past without either groveling to it or arrogantly "updating" it. Throughout the program, the gentle lilt of their singing voices contrasts beautifully with the full-blooded energy of their playing -- note, in particular, the sprightly and gorgeous "Wish I Had My Time Again" and the Cajun 2-step arrangement of Bob Dylan's "Wallflower." And a healthy streak of humor runs throughout as well, as exemplified by the Chinese commentary running over the top of the old Seven Foot Dilly tune "Streak O'Lean, Streak O'Fat" and by the wryly regretful original composition "D&P Blues." If they can keep this up, we all may wake up one morning to find that Uncle Earl is America's finest roots band.

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