Singer, Grammy-winning master songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Louisa Branscomb is one of acoustic music's unsung heroines. While she's been playing in bluegrass bands and recording for more than 30 years, and has had almost 100 tunes covered by various folk, bluegrass, and acoustic acts (including John Denver), this set is her first nationally released album. The program is a mixed bag of old and newer tunes, some written during the sessions, and features an impressive line up of guests including the Whites, Steve Gulley, John Cowan, and Alison Krauss, to name just a few. Although she's a talented singer, Branscomb lets his guests take lead vocal chores here, but she does appear as a picker on two tunes. "That's What Texas Was For" tips its hat to the sound of the Lone Star State's Cowboy Jazz bands; Cheryl Whites sings lead while Branscomb augments her vocals with tasty, rippling mandolin fills. Branscomb plays lead guitar on "This Side of Heaven," a heartfelt tribute to the hard-working farmers who keep food on America's tables. Alison Brown's banjo and Buck White's mandolin give the song a subtle bluegrass feel. Other standouts include "Extra Blue," a poignant love song that sounds like a potential country hit given a smoldering delivery by Becky Schlegel. "I'll Take Love," sung and co-written by Dale Ann Bradley and graced by the harmonies of Alison Krauss and Steve Gulley, and "Stormy Night" a rousing bluegrass number with hot solos by Rob Ickes on Resophonic guitar and Dominick Leslie on mandolin. There isn't a weak track here, and hopefully, this collection will bring some long overdue mainstream recognition to one of acoustic music's finest songwriters. ~ j. poet
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