Largely thanks to cheerful love songs like Corn, Lonely Ends Where Love Begins, and That’s Just Me Loving You, husband and wife duo Darin and Brooke Aldridge have become known as the “Sweethearts of Bluegrass.” While there are a few love songs on their latest release, Snapshots, the focus is instead on sampling musical traditions of the past and infusing them with the mixture of contemporary bluegrass and acoustic country music the couple has become known for. The album leans heavily toward songs that reflect the couple’s faith, and includes a number of well-known guest stars to support their touring band.
Darin and Brooke’s last album, Flying, had a more acoustic country, singer-songwriter feel, and Snapshots preserves that vibe on a few of its eleven tracks. Better Place comes from North Carolina folk-grass band Acoustic Syndicate, which Darin played with in the late nineties. It’s a smooth, progressive-sounding number that finds the singer leaving the one he loves because he knows it’s for the best. Acoustic Syndicate lead vocalist Steve McMurry, who also wrote the song, joins the couple on vocals. The Everly Brothers’ Let It Be Me is accompanied by just guitar and mandolin from Darin. The tender lyrics are given an extra layer of meaning being sung as a duet between a husband and wife.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are grassed-up numbers like Bill Monroe’s My Rose of Old Kentucky (including guest Bobby Hicks on fiddle), which the couple reinterprets as a sort of call-and-response song, with Brooke taking the role of the “rose” to turn the song into a duet. The most driving song on the album is Let’s, a nod to Darin’s time with the Country Gentlemen. Written by Eddie Adcock, the version here includes fine harmonies and is a nice showcase of the couple’s band, which at the time included Tyler Collins (banjo), Becky Buller (fiddle), Dwayne Anderson (bass), and Collin Willis (dobro). Another former Country Gentleman, Doyle Lawson, helps out on the vocals.
Also enjoyable are Tennessee Flat Top Box, which includes solid guitar work from Darin and very strong lead vocals from Brooke, and Gillian Welch’s Annabelle, featuring nice fiddling and dobro from Buller and Willis, respectively. It’s a haunting number that questions why we so often struggle in life, told through the eyes of an Alabama sharecropper whose young daughter has died.
The majority of the rest of the album’s songs are religious in nature. Highlights include the stirring lead single, Get Up John, with its Monroe-esque mandolin from Sam Bush and spirit-filled vocals from Brooke, and Will You Be Ready, an upbeat original co-written by Darin and the late Dr. Bobby Jones (aka Dr. Tom Bibey). When He Calls is another nice addition and a great showcase of Brooke’s vocal strengths. It’s a hopeful, uplifting song written by Paul Kennerley and previously recorded by one of Brooke’s biggest inspirations, Emmylou Harris, with guest harmonies from Ricky Skaggs.
With Snapshots, Darin and Brooke Aldridge do what they do best – provide listeners with a well-rounded collection of enjoyable songs that mean something to them personally. On previous albums, the songs have focused on the love the two share, and here they spread their wings a bit to include the musical traditions they love, as well. Fans of the couple will surely enjoy this latest effort.
For more information on Darin and Brooke Aldridge, visit their website at www.darinandbrookealdridge.com. Their new album is available from a variety of music retailers.