Holly Norman is a bluegrass singer/songwriter from East Tennessee near Knoxville. And what a Southern gal she is!
Her bio reads like something from central casting. At the University of Tennessee, she was a featured twirler for the UT Southland Marching Band where she performed before huge crowds at football games. After earning her degree, she headed straight for Pigeon Forge where she auditioned as a singer at Dollywood, winning a job as the youngest cast member in that year’s new show.
The Dolly Parton influence is clear in Holly’s writing and singing on her debut album, Appalachian Angel. It includes 7 of her original songs, along with a pair from her producer, Ernie Rowell, and a cover of The Eagles’ Lyin’ Eyes, all with contemporary bluegrass accompaniment.
The album was recorded at Rowell’s Nashville Studio, with assistance from Mike Johnson on reso-guitar, Kevin Grantt on bass, Danny Parks on guitar and banjo, Bruce Watkins on guitar, Glen Duncan on mandolin, and Aubrey Haynie and Larry Franklin on fiddle.
You can hear as much country influence as bluegrass in both the songs and the arrangements. No surprise given Holly’s admiration for Dolly, and her family’s background in country and bluegrass music. There’s a number of broken heart songs, like the opener, Free, which features some brilliant Pedabro playing from Johnson. The instrument is a cumbersome combination of a dobro guitar with the sort of pedal bending apparatus a pedal steel would use, and it sounds great here.
Another highlight is Death In The Family, a 3/4 time country ballad from Rowell and Lee Bach. It’s performed here as a duet with Rhonda Vincent with stellar results. Lyin’ Eyes get an understated country treatment, not much different from the original, which Norman sings with passion.
Overall, Appalachian Angel is more laid back than your typical bluegrass album, but if you enjoy acoustic country with clever hooks (and a bluegrass flavor), there’ll be a lot for you to enjoy here.
Find moe details about Holly Norman on her web site.