AJ Srubas & Rina Rossi – Sweet Bunch of Daisies

Although AJ Srubas & Rina Rossi have performed together in numerous Midwest based bands, Sweet Bunch of Daisies marks their first recording as a duo. This seventeen song collection features a broad array of material in both the old time and folk tradition.

Sweet Bunch of Daisies offers a good mix between instrumentals and vocal pieces. The first two tracks, Lazy Kate and Thunderbolt Hornpipe, hone in on AJ Srubas’ dynamic old time fiddling and Rina Rossi’s strong accompaniment on rhythm guitar.

While this project centers around Srubas and Rossi, the couple does utilize guest musicians on several tracks. Molly Bonder, a haunting, cautionary tale about swan hunting from the repertoire of Aunt Jenny Wilson, features Brian Miller on bouzouki. This piece in particular really spotlights Rina’s captivating voice. She is also featured on the Hammond organ.

Fort Smith by Cyril Stinnet is one of several tunes featuring David Robinson on banjo. Utilizing the trio configuration of fiddle, banjo, and guitar, this tune allows Srubas to shine on the fiddle. 

Though Keweenaw Light is a contemporary song written by Craig Johnson, AJ and Rina perform it in the vein of the Carter Family. It’s a beautiful piece centered around the couple’s vocal harmonies.

Constitution Hornpipe by Bob Walters is one of the most intriguing tunes on this project by far. With an instrumental configuration consisting of AJ Srubas on fiddle and electric guitar, Rina Rossi on guitar, pump organ and bass, and Andrew Bartelson on snare drum, this track has a slight Texas swing feel to it. It does feel slightly out of place with the other pieces on this recording, but nonetheless it’s an excellent performance.

Speaking of swing, Lillie Dale is a song that most listeners would know through the version released by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys in 1956. Sruba and Rossi’s rendition is modeled after the duet of Doc Roberts and Asa Martin.

The title track, Sweet Bunch of Daisies, comes from Pete McMahan. This waltz tune provides a nice change of pace from the livelier pieces included on this project.

The Dying Soldier is another intriguing track. With just vocals and a harmonium for instrumental accompaniment, this haunting song was learned from a recording by Kentucky folk singer Buell Kazee.

Sweet Bunch of Daisies is a wonderful survey of traditional acoustic music. With various instrumental and vocal combinations, AJ Srubas & Rina Rossi have brought us a recording that will appeal to a broad range of palettes. This is a recording you can’t categorize. It’s good, earthy, soulful music, period.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.