CHHR2, as it is succinctly titled, has been in music stores since July 29.
Consisting of 12 songs and an unlisted brief instrumental piece Where’s Carrie? at the end, CHHR2 includes eight original tunes either written or co-written by band member Josh Miller. These are If These Walls Could Talk, Faith & Hope, Fickle Heart, Second Chances (co-written with producer Jim VanCleve), I Don’t Want to Wake Up (which as co-written with Josh Swift), Devil’s Den (co-written with Jim VanCleve and Craig Market), One Way Track To Nowhere (co-written with band-mate Keith McKinnon) and 1800 Miles (co-written with Jennifer Haire). That is considerably more in-house material than on the band’s 2006 debut release for Rural Rhythm Records.
The opening song, Second Chances, and Fickle Heart are both similar inasmuch as they are about broken hearts. If These Walls Could Talk is both powerful and emotive; the ‘grassy’ 1800 Miles reminds us that life’s journey with a soul mate doesn’t always end where one would want; and the driven One Way Track To Nowhere warns about the results of selfishness. All traditional stories told in a contemporary manner.
Additional material comes in the form of I Can Go Back Any Time, written by singer/songwriter Jennifer Strickland, and that has already been released as a single; what could be a career song for Ms Hassler, Country Strong, by Mark Nesler, Tony Martin and Jennifer Hanson; and She’s A Stranger In His Mind, brilliantly written by Mark “Brink” Brinkman, a song about Altzheimers disease that I am sure I have heard before.
Finally, the band covers Bob Seger’s tale of the emotional and social ups and downs of a rock musician’s life on the road, Turn the Page, just as Waylon Jennings, Metallica and Kid Rock have done before. Apparently, this has been a long-time fan favourite at Hard Rain’s personal appearances.
Ms Hassler has a powerful voice; in the bluegrass field more Rhonda Vincent than Alison Krauss. In fact, a lot like Ms Vincent and one that may see Carrie Hassler win vocal awards in the not too distant future.
The band consists of Carrie Hassler-Lead Vocals; Travis Anderson – Bass; Josh Miller – Banjo, Guitar, vocals; Jamie Harper- Fiddle, vocals; Keith McKinnon – Guitar, baritone vocals; Kevin McKinnon – Mandolin, low tenor vocals. They are helped by Jim VanCleve, Steve Gulley, Josh Shilling and Andy Hall.
The end product is a collection of energetic, contemporary bluegrass performances that places Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain in the reckoning for acknowledgment by their peers for their swift rise to prominence.
Bluegrass for the 21st century, in other words.