For the past several years Darin & Brooke Aldridge have been steadily morphing from singing sweethearts (Darin Aldridge & Brooke Justice), to a married couple headlining both bluegrass and acoustic country shows. Their vocal harmony and consistently positive music has won them fans all across North America.
With their latest album, Flying, we see them moving just a little closer to country, while retaining much of the bluegrass sound that brought them to the dance. The songs and arrangements still feel grassy, but the drums are a bit more forward in the mix, and the banjo farther back, than what you’ll hear at their live shows.
What you will hear is one of the strongest female voices in our business today, joined by a crack band, with some of the tightest harmony singing around in the persons of Darin Aldridge and Becky Buller. Three of the ten songs also come from Buller, who is the newest member of the band, coming aboard in January 2013.
The album was recorded with the Aldridges’ touring group. Darin plays guitar and mandolin, Becky is on fiddle, and Collin Willis stands out on reso-guitar, with Dwayne Anderson on bass and Matt Love on banjo. Noted drummer Tony Creasman handles a variety of guest percussion.
All the material is strong, consisting of love songs, hopeful messages, and words of encouragement. The performances are solid throughout, with Brooke showing off her pipes in a variety of tempos and grooves. Like contemporary acoustic country, the vocals are way out front, with a lot more dobro and lead guitar than banjo or fiddle.
The record opens with Just A Little, one of its more country-sounding tracks, followed by Love Speaks To Me, where Darin takes the lead on the first and last verse. Laurie Stevens, written by Buller and Bethany Dick-Olds, is full-on bluegrass, so much so that both the protagonist and her lover come to a tragic end. Now that’s bluegrass!
Brooke shines on I Gotta Have Butterflies, in which a woman tells the world that true love requires that troubled stomach feel that we all know well, and on Nanci Griffith’s Outbound Train, which suits her voice perfectly. Both are produced more on the country side of the ledger.
To The Moon and Back and Love Does take us back to the bluegrass, the latter a lovely duet written by Grascal Jamie Johnson, Susanne M. Johnson and Jenee Fleener.
Flying seems to be a clear attempt by Darin & Brooke (and Organic Records, yet another Crossroads imprint) to move the pair closer to the larger positive country market. It is being aggressively promoted to the Americana world as well. We’ll have to wait and see how successful the move will be.
For bluegrass fans, though, their stage show is still a hard-driving, banjo-heavy performance. They’ll be on stage several times during next week’s World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh if you want to hear these fine new songs without the drums and country mix.
Look for Flying wherever you purchase CDs or digital downloads.