High class traditional bluegrass with some interesting choices of cover versions.
Linda Lay grew up just outside Bristol, Tennessee. This has long been an area steeped in Bluegrass and Folk music, and Lay hasn’t strayed far from her roots on her self-titled album. Opener and single ‘The Happiness of Having You’ has all the parts you might expect. Fiddle, Weissenborn Guitar, Banjo and a clear high voice. What it also has is an engaging simplicity that runs through the whole album. ‘The Jingling Hole’ named after a rather unpleasant way of disposing of prisoners in the American Civil War has an almost Irish feel to the Guitar and Mandolin led song. ‘Imagine That’ has a distinctly Alison Krauss feel to it. As does ‘The Mountain’. As well as taking the lead vocal, Lay plays upright bass, and “heads an all-star ensemble of award-winning instrumentalists on the record”. Her husband David Lay plays acoustic guitar and sings harmony vocals; Sammy Shelor on banjo; Bryan McDowell on fiddle; Darren Beachley on dobro and harmony vocals; Nick Falk on percussion; and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Ramsey on mandolin, guitar, Weissenborn slide guitar, and harmony vocals. Ramsey is the standout player here and his Weissenborn and Mandolin playing are album highlights. The most intriguing song of this album is a cover version of Debbie Harry’s ‘Standing In My Way’, which is taken as an acoustic country ballad.
This album is very much on the traditional Bluegrass mould. And there is nothing wrong with that. Songs like ‘Blue Blue Ridge Mountain Girl’ and ‘Lost In the Shuffle’ are timeless. The song that shows off Lay’s singing best is the ballad ‘I’ll Be Here In the Morning’ with a sensitive guitar solo her husband. Union Station’s bass player Barry Bales sums up Lay’s appeal: “Linda is the total package with an effortless delivery that is equally at home singing bluegrass, classic county, or a reimagined modern cover.” If you like Bluegrass or acoustic country in any form this is an album to try.