Tina Adair has one of those voices that makes you immediately stop what you’re doing to give her your full attention. She’s arguably one of the best female vocalists in bluegrass – something her peers have acknowledged the past two years by awarding Sister Sadie, in which she features as one of the lead vocalists, the IBMA Vocal Group of the Year. After several Sister Sadie albums and a recent duet collaboration with Dale Ann Bradley, Adair has recently released her first solo work since 2012’s Born Bad. The new self-titled album from Engelhardt Music Group is a fine showcase of Adair’s vocal abilities, giving listeners a taste of grassed-up country covers alongside several newer songs.
The lead single, released late last year, will be familiar to fans of 80s and 90s country music. Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses was a huge hit for country artist Kathy Mattea in 1988, and Adair offers a bright, fiddle- and banjo-guided version here. It’s a cheerful, hopeful love song that’s a joy to listen to, with perfectly controlled vocals from Adair and nice harmonies from Ronnie and Garnet Bowman. Adair’s latest single reaches back a little further in the country music catalog for Hank Williams’s I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind. The number has a fun country swing sound to it, with sassy, bold lead vocals, inventive banjo from Scott Vestal, and truly excellent fiddling from Tim Crouch – definitely one of the album’s best overall performances.
Another standout performance comes on Mickey Newbury’s Why You Been Gone So Long. There are shades of Tony Rice’s version here, but Adair has slowed the song down, with a bluesy treatment – particularly courtesy of Rob Ickes’s dobro. Adair’s vocals have just the right mix of anger and loneliness. Another fine bluesy track is God Will Make a Way, penned by Glen Duncan and Kevin Grant. While there’s some great instrumental work going on in the background, Adair’s vocals are the showpiece here, as she shares a message about God’s power: “If God can make the mighty mountain, God can make the seven seas, put all of the stars in the universe, He’ll make a way for you and me.”
Two of the songs on the album were co-written by Adair and her Sister Sadie bandmates. The first is Won’t Be Crying Over You, penned with banjo ace Gena Britt. It’s a driving, banjo-guided, kiss-off number that finds the singer getting out all her sorrows over a cold-hearted man in one night: “Tonight I’m burning your pictures while sitting here drowning my tears… You can call me crazy, even call me a fool, but after tonight I won’t be crying over you.” Adair puts plenty of conviction into her vocals here – the guy she’s singing about better pick up his bags and get gone! Her other co-write is Let Each Other Go with Deanie Richardson, a well-written, classic country-styled cheating song that brings to mind Tammy Wynette. I’d actually like to hear this one as a duet, with its back-and-forth verses about the man and woman in the relationship. As it is, Adair pours plenty of emotion into the lyrics, singing with a tear in her voice.
There’s plenty of good stuff to be found on this album, particularly for those who enjoy their bluegrass with a strong dose of country and blues sounds. Adair has long been one of my favorite singers, and I thoroughly enjoyed what she has put together here. Female Vocalist of the Year, anyone?
For more information on Adair and her new solo album, visit her online. The album is available from several online music retailers.