Given the frenetic pace of modern life and the debatable value of pop music, old-time tunes can be a balm for the frazzled mind, a reminder of “simpler times.” Bill LaCroix’s album by that name is exactly such a tonic, offering 12 Appalachia-meets-Wild West songs that carry resounding sentiment without being sentimental.
Wilma McDaniel reads her poems on two tracks, and, with her old voice and straightforward phrases, sounds wise, not maudlin. Roughly half the songs are derivations on traditional numbers, such as “Little Brown Jug” and “Cumberland Gap,” while the rest are LaCroix’s own creations. Based in Victor, LaCroix lends his songs a refreshing authenticity. Lyrics that comment on Western mythology (cowboys) and national human rights issues (immigration) aren’t preachy, but humble and honest. Indeed, unless you read his liner notes, which reference Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, his politics could likely go unnoticed. And, with such beautiful instrumentals, his understated positions fit fine.
Like the great folk and bluegrass singers of old, LaCroix allows the banjos, mandolins and fiddles to tell the tale, and a sweet and spirited tale it is. (Melissa Mylchreest)