The title of roots musician Chris Brashear’s latest album certainly reflects the songs he has included on it. Heart of the Country is a collection of thirteen tunes celebrating the rural parts of America and the people who make their homes there. Although Brashear is the fiddler for Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, he showcases his songwriting and lead vocals here.
Brashear, who wrote nine of the album’s tracks, has a knack for creating tunes with an old-timey feel. Listen to Me Mother is a traditional rambler’s lament that sounds as if it could have been first recorded in the 1920s. This Oregon Country, which has a bit more of a bluegrass influence, shares the story of a man traveling west to Oregon searching for a better life. Brashear gets to show off his fiddling skills on Hills of Arkansas, a nice, easygoing old-time fiddle tune. Bluegrass pickers will enjoy Tell All My Pickin’ Friends Goodbye, a fun ode to festival jams. The original songs on this album are vivid and strong, especially Today I Saw the Longest Train, which uses the image of a train to represent “all the things now past and gone.” The pedal steel in this song is a nice, lonesome addition.
The songs here which are not originals should still be familiar to listeners. Mama’s Opry is a well-known tune by Americana singer-songwriter Iris DeMent which was also recently recorded by country singer Sunny Sweeney. This song is an excellent homage to the power of good country music, and Brashear offers an enjoyable, stripped down rendition with harmony vocals added by his daughter, Hollis. One of the most bluegrass-sounding songs on the album is How Could I Explain, which listeners might remember from the Junior Sisk and Del McCoury versions. Brashear’s cut of this tune is a bit more restrained than those.
Brashear has a clear voice somewhat reminiscent of Tim O’Brien which is well suited to the folk style of music he includes here. He contributes acoustic guitar throughout the album (and fiddle on two tracks), and is joined by a host of other accomplished musicians including O’Brien (mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmony vocals), Todd Phillips (bass), Mike Compton (mandolin), Al Perkins (Kona slide guitar, dobro, and pedal steel), and Pat Enright (harmony vocals). While the majority of those artists are best known for their work in the bluegrass genre, they come together to make a fine-sounding folk/Americana record.
For more information on Chris Brashear, visit his website at www.chrisbrashear.info.
Heart of the Country can be purchased from various online music retailers, including Amazon and CDBaby.