HighTone Records has announced that September 19 will be the release date for The Golden West, the first “bluegrass band project” in more than 6 years from West Coast fiddler/vocalist/songwriter, Laurie Lewis. Laurie Lewis and her Bluegrass Pals was released in 1999 to widespread critical acclaim, but her recorded output since that time has been primarily with her duet partner, Tom Rozum.
This project is billed as coming from Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, and knowing what the term “right hand” means in bluegrass parlance, the band name could be seen as exhibiting more than a whiff of braggadocio. String musicians of every stripe know that both tone and timing are regulated by a performer’s right hand, so calling a band by that name suggests that they will bear some strict scrutiny in those areas.
But, as Dizzy Dean so famously quipped, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” and the folks on this CD have demonstrated just that sort of mastery over the years.
Though the band name is new, these musicians have a long history of performing and recording with Lewis. Craig Smith is on banjo, Todd Phillips on bass, Scott Huffman on guitar, and Tom Rozum on mandolin with Lewis on fiddle. In a true band format, lead vocals are shared among Lewis, Rozum and Huffman, with guest harmony vocals coming from Linda Ronstadt on two tracks.
The material mixes a number of Laurie Lewis originals with songs from Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmy Martin, Ana Egge and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.