Kat Wallace and David Sasso “Old Habits”

Independent, 2021

Second release from bluegrass duo which hints of even better to come.

Actual cover art for Kat Wallace and David Sasso "Old Habits"Old Habits is the second release by duo Kat Wallace and David Sasso, a light and delicate folk/bluegrass record, with touches of singer-songwriter material. It marks a gentle evolution of sound from their first record, ‘Stuff of Stars’, as they bring in more musicians to augment their musical vision, and help to realise their songs potential. 

Vocally, Sasso, especially, has a voice that sounds as if it has echoed down the ages; were the crackle of ancient vinyl present, it might have come straight from the Bristol Sessions of 1927. 

Wallace, meanwhile, helps bring their sound up to date, her clear voice never over-powering the songs beneath, but lending a harmonic lilt which is easy on the ear and gives the record a warmth which compliments the more austere tones of Sasso.

The duo identify kindred spirits in the likes of Mandolin Orange and Sarah Jarosz, and this is apparent in their style. However, songs such as ‘Rain On my Windows’, ‘The Great Conjunction’ and ‘After Our Fall’ have a lineage from the likes of Kate Wolf, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, and even further back – their version of the folk tune ‘Ger the Rigger’, for example, perhaps carries more of its sound from the Irish and Scottish session tradition, than it does from the mountains of Appalachia. 

‘Build Yourself An Ark’, which opens the set and is in many ways a calling card for all that follows, establishes the record’s credentials immediately. A mandolin tentatively rings out, before Sasso’s voice comes in, at once both fresh and aged, imploring us to ‘gather up some gopher wood, and build yourself an ark’. It is a reflection of life in the pandemic, and a reaching back to similarly challenging days before; but it also reminds us that we have the opportunity to stop, reflect, and build towards a better future. 

‘Empty Bottle News’ has some delicate and emotional orchestral strings coming through, though as with the other tracks on this record, it is subtle and understated. This is to the credit of the pair, who (like the band around them) clearly have the musical chops to take flight, but consistently ease back on overplaying, and so allow the songs to breathe in the natural light. 

‘Old Habits’ is highly recommended if your tastes run to unfettered mountain music, traditional folk and bluegrass. It carries musical echoes of the earliest work of Alison Krauss and Nickel Creek, not to mention the old-time stylings of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. A very worthy addition to the folk/bluegrass/singer-songwriter genre, this record carries a real sense that there is plenty more to come, while giving the listener so much to enjoy with the songs that are here now.

8/10
8/10

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