Apple & Setser — a duo consisting of Brad Apple and Pam Setser — have officially been a pair since 2017, although they’ve played music together on and off for 30 years. Each started out in a family band, but of the two, Setser has been the more prolific, having tallied up a steady stream of albums all on her own, more than a dozen both on her own and in various configurations. That said, the pair have tallied quite a number of accomplishments, including a nomination for Best Acoustic Act for the 2022 Arkansas Country Music Awards and top chart showings on the Roots Music weekly reports, various Folk Alliance International monthly tallies and, of course, the Bluegrass Today weekly charts.
On their new self-titled effort, Apple handles the bulk of the instrumental duties, acoustic guitar, fingerstyle guitar, mandolin, acoustic, fretless electric bass, and vocals, and Setser responsible for lead and harmony vocals. David Johnson and Tim Crouch add fiddle, and Sam Cobb mandolin.
The results are consistently impressive, made even more so by songs that focus on reflection and reminiscing. Grandma Danced with the Arkansas Traveler is rather fanciful in the regard, while When the Wagon Was New is seeped in both novelty and nostalgia. Indeed, Apple & Setser’s sound is defined by a sweet and serendipitous approach, as reflected in the lithe and lively opening track, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, as reflected in its blissful harmonies, the optimistic attitude of A Friend You Never Met, which shares lessons worth learning (“A handshake was a promise you never forget/A stranger was a friend you just never met”), the glad and giddy I’ll Love Nobody But You, and, ultimately, the quiet caress of Too Far Gone. A pair of upbeat instrumentals — Hayes Hoedown and When You and I Were Young Maggie — add to the overall enticement. Likewise, a cover of the age-old standard originally written by Buddy Holly, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, is equally enticing.
Given all it offers, Apple & Setser not only begs return listens, but also anticipation of what else the two might have to offer as far as their future franchise. A wonderful album, it certainly bodes well for whatever form that might take.