The union of guitarist and harmony singer Big John Talley and lead singer and bassist Starlett Boswell has provided some fortuitous possibilities ever since the two met a mere three years ago. That was initially borne out with the release of their well received single, Straight 58, and the duo’s debut, Till The End Of The Road. Now the promise comes to full fruition with the release of their latest effort, the expressively detailed Living in the South.
Joined by guests Ron Stewart on fiddle, dobro, and harmonies, David Carroll on banjo, and Johnathan Dillon on mandolin, the duo share a mix of bluegrass, country, gospel, and Americana, courtesy of a set of songs that runs a stylistic gamut in equal proportion. Not surprisingly then, the music is generally upbeat, as typified by such songs as the effusive opener, Makin’ Tracks to Macon, the able and affable Quit Quittin’ You, and the rollicking Makeup and Faded Blue Jeans.
On the other hand, certain songs — The Ties That Bind, Slowly Let Me Down, and the tender and touching twosome consisting of Deepening Snow, and the title track — are all graced with a subtler sheen, one that allows for both beautiful balladry, a lilting pace, and an immediate engagement. Given the tight-knit blend of fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, and Starlett & Big John’s down home harmonies, the results are manifest in a sound that’s exceedingly affecting from start to finish, stirred through sentiment and the clear commitment of all those involved.
So too, the pair have plucked inspiration from a diverse and distinctive palette, courtesy of a selection of songs that includes an equal number of their own originals alongside classic tracks from Fred Rose, Merle Haggard, Harlan Howard, and Sonny Throckmorton. Taste and talent obviously go hand in glove as far as this dynamic duo is concerned.
Although both artists can claim credible careers each on their own, Living in the South finds them as a formidable pair, clearly capable of drawing from the strengths each is able to bring to the fore. As the title implies, southern living has its charms. Thanks to Starlett & Big John for making that attitude so apparent.