The fourth album from this Jacksonville, Fla.-based duo is essentially a history tutorial covering the gamut of acoustic music, from Celtic and bluegrass to folk and roots. Most of the contained lessons have the necessary touchstones to hit on point; other times, though, the journey tries to encompass too much turf, and leaves the listener stranded.
Lee Hunter and Avrid Smith deftly perform many of the facets that fall within the album’s scope. Bluegrass is a strength, and it’s expected, with appearances from fiddle great Darol Anger and bassist Byron House. The old-time ballad “Naomi Wise” is given a proper treatment in a rousing and haunting version, but unfortunately the high lonesome sound ends there.
But what the album lacks in bluegrass depth is made up for with tons of roots music. “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (a reworking of the traditional blues song) and Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” showcase Hunter’s vocal exuberance and recall Natalie Merchant—if she’d been raised on front-porch Appalachian jams.
Tammerlin is equipped to teach this lesson; next time the band just might want to be a little more concise. (Jonathan Stumpf)
Tammerlin plays Liquid Planet Friday, June 29, at 8 PM. Free.