As always, Hassler’s powerful voice is front and center, and she is assisted by some real heavyweights in the studio. Ron Stewart is on banjo, Alan Bibey on mandolin, Tim Stafford on guitar, Justin Moses on fiddle and Mark Fain on bass. Harmony vocals are provided by Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley, who also produced.
The material also comes from a notable list of writers. Tim Stafford, Steve Gulley, Jennifer Strickland, Craig Market and Carl Jackson are all listed as having contributed songs to the project.
And again, like her previous records, The Distance showcases Carrie’s expressive singing on a set of modern bluegrass with a strong country influence.
The 8 song set starts with her recreation of Luxury Liner, a Gram Parsons song that Emmylou Harris recorded in 1977 with Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs. This version holds true to Harris’ classic statement, but with a more decidedly grassy edge. It’s a perfect vehicle for Hassler and her ability to belt one out.
All I Have To Do Is Breathe is another stellar Tim Stafford/Steve Gulley composition. If the fates continue to smile on these two, they could go down as the Lennon & McCartney of bluegrass.
The bulk of the tracks are on the mellower side, with a real standout Carrie’s duet with Steve Gulley on Carl Jackson’s Eugene & Diane, which tells of a love song that never was.
Get Me Over You is a textbook example of polished contemporary bluegrass, with strong contributions from Stewart, Bibey, Stafford and Moses.
Carrie Hassler and Rural Rhythm have been a good team, with her two previous albums spending time on the bluegrass charts. Unless I miss my guess, The Distance should follow that same track.