Blue Mother Tupelo might not be bluegrass in the strictest sense, what with a bare boned musical approach that relies on little more than two voices, a robust strum, and a steady stream of natural percussion. If anything, they lean more towards Grassicana, thanks to their mix of traditional trappings and crowd-pleasing revelry. Nevertheless, their’s is a rustic, rootsy sound that derives its appeal from a decidedly down home delivery and an obvious reverence for a sound easily classified as that of a vintage variety.
A Nashville duo consisting of husband and wife singer/songwriters Ricky and Micol Davis, Blue Mother Tupelo have become regional favorites over the past 20 years, thanks at least in part to an effusive delivery that blends blues, folk, and Appalachian influences. It’s not necessarily innovative or especially extraordinary in playing and practice, but with both of them sharing the vocals — Ricky playing guitar and Micol supplying the sturdy rhythms with hand slaps, tambourine and occasional keyboards — the two manage to muster up some rousing revelry, even in the midst of their stripped down songs.
Sanctuary, Blue Mother Tupelo’s latest album and their fifth to date, offers several ideal examples. Recorded live at Hippie Jack’s, an East Tennessee festival venue and rural retreat, the aptly-titled effort finds them sharing an array of newer songs, each performed with that trademark combination of reverence and revelry.
In a real sense, a Blue Mother Tupelo show carries the same feeling that comes from witnessing a revival, given their unabashed fervor and enthusiasm. Indeed, few outfits are capable of making such a mighty noise with so few additives. These are songs of abject devotion, so striking and sincere that they get straight to the point with no hesitation whatsoever. The Hurt’s How You Know and Baby I’m Not Me are share sentiments expressed between two clearly committed individuals. They can be reverent and deliberate, as in My Baby My or decidedly driven, as For Sure Fire obviously indicates.
Regardless of their methods, this particular Sanctuary is well worth seeking out.