As good a piece of modern bluegrass as you’re ever likely to find.
Bluegrass albums can elicit mixed responses on AUK with some holding the view that they shouldn’t be included in an Americana genre, which of course, begs the question as to whether Americana is, in itself, actually a musical genre? If you take Americana as a blanket term to describe music that has its sound rooted in the music of America (folk, country, what have you) then bluegrass is rightly a part of that, and the variety is all the better for it.
All this brings us nicely to ‘Narrowing The Gap’, Amanda Cook’s fourth album release and her third on Mountain Fever Records. The album jumps straight in with the full-on ‘Get On Board’ which is driven along wonderfully by Carolyne VanLierop-Boone’s scorching banjo and George Mason’s fiddle while Amanda’s excellent vocals metaphorically take us on a train journey through life. The train theme continues with ‘Lonesome Leaving Train’ as a would-be bride crosses the US from Virginia to Kansas only to be left heartbroken as she is jilted on arrival.
The pace changes on ‘Curtains’ with Amanda’s evocative vocals taking centre stage, wonderfully supported by some perfectly restrained playing by her band, as she sings of the heartache and the regret of having lost the love of her life. The melodic ‘West Virginia Coal’ follows, telling the tale of a husband and father leaving home for the daily grind of work in the West Virginia mines never to return.
‘Narrowing The Gap’ continues the in a similar vein to Cook’s last two releases (‘Deep Water’ and ‘Point of No Return’) but there’s an added complexity and maturity in this release and some praise must go to the fine engineering, mixing and mastering, not to mention the mandolin and harmony vocals on the fine ‘It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over’, undertaken by Aaron Ramsey. It would be remiss not to complete the musical credits without mentioning the fine work by Aaron Foster on guitar, Troy Boone on mandolin, Josh Faul on bass and Jeff Partin on Dobro.
This is a very high-quality bluegrass album with Amanda Cook’s quality vocals being the glue while being brilliantly supported by the high-quality musicianship of her entire band. If you’re already a bluegrass aficionado, then you’ll likely love this quality piece of work and even if your internal jury is undecided about bluegrass, give it a try – it may just open your mind to another musical style you didn’t know you liked!