Ever since meeting in 1959 they brought the sounds of the Ozarks to the west coast playing concert and dance halls, radio and television. They played in a raw, authentic style that was new to the region and, as a result, many California bluegrass musicians learned to play in just that way.
Acknowledging this influence, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick pay tribute to Vern & Ray with an 18 song album that captures the essence of those pioneers, continuing the association that began when they started singing together in the mid-1970s and continued with their first album Together (Kaleidoscope, released 1991).
Lewis and Kallick honor the Vern & Ray arrangement of Stephen Foster’s Oh! Susanna, the lead track, and such well-known titles from Vern & Ray’s repertoire as Montana Cowboy, Cabin on a Mountain and The Touch of God’s Hand are each given a faithful, edgy treatment that is vibrant and re-freshed.
The performance on Thinkin’ of Home, another Vern & Ray favorite, sees Lewis and Kallick’s vocals trace the instrumental harmony lines. The additional fiddle of Annie Staninec enhances the mournful tone of the song.
The ladies cleverly balance the historical origins of the Carter Family’s Cowboy Jack and My Clinch Mountain Home and the fervour of Vern & Ray with their own fresh input. And they don’t hold anything back in their powerful treatment of How Many Times. Likewise with To Hell with the Land and Little Birdie.
Lewis and Kallick share and swap the lead and harmony vocal parts, and are ably assisted by some of the west coast’s finest musicians, Tom Rozum – doing his best copy of Vern Williams’ mandolin style, Patrick Sauber (bass), Keith Little (banjo), the aforementioned Annie Staninec and Sally Van Meter (resophonic guitar).
Rozum and Little each provide a third voice for the trios.
All have put their hearts and souls into this project.
For those crying out for honest-to-goodness bluegrass music like it used to be will certainly want to add this CD to their collection. Satisfaction guaranteed.
(Spruce and Maple Music SMM 1012)