Over the years, bluegrass greats have often joined forces to create interesting, first-rate duo and group albums which somewhat stretch the boundaries of bluegrass music. These musicians take their training and influences in other genres, mix it with songs and traditions of bluegrass, and come up with thoroughly enjoyable listening experiences.
Recently, two excellent musicians have come together to deliver one of these albums. Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein have recently released their second duet album, Home from the Mills, on Rebel Records.
With songs ranging from traditional bluegrass to opera, and drawing from many several well-known songwriters, Gaudreau and Klein have compiled an album which should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Overall, the album has a peaceful, folk feel. Two tracks from Tim O’Brien make the list: the Hot Rize tune Bending Blades and Rod McNeil, a song which honors the memory of (in Klein’s words) “a true philanthropist of acoustic music.” McNeil promoted bluegrass music at the Elizabeth, Pennsylvania Moose Lodge from the 1970s-1990s, and Gaudreau and Klein have provided a pleasing, Celtic-flaired tribute. Another Celtic-sounding tune is Leaving Nancy, which at first seems to speak of a man saying goodbye to his wife as he prepares to leave on a train, but which Klein reveals in the liner notes to actually be about a son leaving his mother to seek his fortunes.
The album’s title track touches on a familiar theme in bluegrass music – the homeplace. Even though this tune refers to the small mill towns of New England, many listeners can identify with the boy who misses “the hills of the homestead.” Another standout track is a rendition of the Gordon Lightfoot tune Shadows, which listeners may recognize from the Tony Rice Unit version from the 1980s (on which Gaudreau played). Klein’s wistful vocals mix perfectly with the track’s gentle mandolin solos.
One of the most intriguing songs on the album is Enferment les Yeux, taken from the 1884 opera Manon. Klein sings the tune, which translates to “closing the eyes” and is also known as the Dream Song, in its original French, with his daughter Lauren providing harmony vocals. Another tune drawn from a very different genre is New Morning, written and originally recorded by alternative rock band Alpha Rev. The song actually sounds quite similar to Alpha Rev’s version, with an octave mandolin mimicking the electric guitar of the original cut.
As is to be expected, the musicianship on the album is excellent, with Gaudreau playing mandolin and mandola and sharing duties with Klein on guitar and octave mandolin. Two instrumentals really show off their skills: a medley of Whiskey Before Breakfast and Red Haired Boy (featuring the octave mandolin) and Fisher’s Hornpipe (an octave mandolin/mandola duet). The two show off their bluegrass skills in I’d Rather Live By the Side of the Road, which begins in a very stripped-down fashion but includes a traditional-style break with great tremolo by Gaudreau.
Gaudreau and Klein have both had successful careers in bluegrass music, and are sure to continue drawing fans with their unique acoustic music. For more information on the duo, visit their website at www.jimmyandmoondi.com.
Home from the Mills can be purchased from the website, iTunes, Amazon, and a variety of other music stores.