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and Laurie Lewis

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Laurie Lewis Celebrates her Community on New Duet Album," and Laurie Lewis"

 

Over the past four decades, Laurie Lewis’ name has become synonymous with the West Coast Bluegrass Scene. Her contributions to the genre through recordings, performances, songwriting, and producing have earned her two Grammy nominations, two International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year awards, and deep-seated respect from her peers, inspiring multiple new generations of musicians in the process. On her new album, "and Laurie Lewis," she presents a collection of duets, joined by ten West Coast musicians with whom she has shared touchstone moments throughout her career. With the album’s thirteen tracks Lewis demonstrates her commitment to making music as an act of community building, sharing what she describes as “intimate conversations” with musicians from her past, present, and future.

 

Album Notes

 

Song Titles

* You Are My Flower * Baby, That Would Sure Go Good * Rooster Crow * My Last Go-Round * Old Friend * Mama Cry * The Lonely One * Ain’t Nobody Got the Blues Like Me * Will the Circle Be Unbroken * The Pika Song * O The Wind and Rain * Troubled Times * This is our Home *

 

CD Reviews

“I can’t stop listening to this CD these last few days. I’m looking for a word: prescient perhaps. It’s as if she knew I needed to hear this collection of songs right at this time. Of course, that’s incredibly selfish for me to say. She is reaching out to all of us.”

 

No Depression, April 7, 2020

While Lewis did not record an album till 1983, our paths crossed somewhere along the bluegrass line nearly a decade before. She first stood out as women were then rare in bluegrass (except for on the progressive West Coast), then as an outstanding guitarist, and rarer still, band leader. In the intervening years she became a staple on the circuit, and now a icon, an influence and inspiration to many younger women who have taken up the mantle. This not to say that Lewis has given up the ghost, not by a long shot. Billed as an album of duets (with Molly Tuttle, Mike Marshall, Tatiana Hargreaves, Barbara Higbie, and more), and Laurie Lewis is pure Lewis while also permitting friends to pay tribute to her.

 

Mixing originals with covers (all but one are by women), Lewis’ brilliance shines in her reverence and quiet understatement. Of particular interest is Rosalie Sorrels’ “My Last Go-Round,” a beautiful lullaby that pretty well encapsulates Sorrels’ troubadour life. Lewis continues that theme with the original “This Is Our Home” that closes the album, an introspective piece that’s as post-modern as any younger artist could muster. As the traditional “You Are My Flower” opens the album, these 13 duets constitute a retrospective song cycle of a different sort, one that traverses where she’s been and where’s she headed.

 

Hudson River Bluegrass Association, March 28, 2020

It’s Saturday, March 28, 2020, as I look out at the empty street. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo gives an update on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We are bombarded with hourly updates on a local, national and global scale. I sit down at my desk and absorb the magical elements in the CD cover: and Laurie Lewis.

 

I have known Laurie Lewis for many years, at least since the late 1980’s. I can also say that I have a pretty healthy collection of her recorded work in all of those years, and– get this– I can’t stop listening to this CD these last few days. I’m looking for a word: prescient perhaps. It’s as if she knew I needed to hear this collection of songs right at this time. Of course, that’s incredibly selfish for me to say. She is reaching out to all of us.

 

Artistry is not commonplace. I’m talking about the stuff that’s beyond just good pickin’ and singin’. I’m talking about how an artist, a writer and singer, grapples with her own feelings, her genre, her own station in life and processes all of this into a coherent musical message. This beautiful collection of songs transmits empathy, melancholy, intimacy and an embrace that one can only call love. With every listen, that emotional tsunami keeps getting stronger and stronger.

 

OK, for all bluegrassers wary of the touchy-feely, don’t take me wrong. Let me just name a few songs for you: You Are My Flower, Ain’t Nobody Got The Blues Like Me, Old Friend, O The Wind and Rain, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Troubled Times. Did I mention that all of the songs on this CD are duets? Laurie has teamed up with some long-time friends and associates for this recording. Here’s the great list of folks she has recruited: Nina Gerber, Tatiana Hargreaves, Barbara Higbie, Kathy Kallick, Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips, Tom Rozum, Craig Smith, Molly Tuttle and Leah Wollenberg. There is so much good playing and singing here. I mean, sweet Jesus, Tatiana is a fiddler’s fiddler and when Nina Gerber plays electric guitar (you’ll think sometimes it is a pedal steel) the greater trochanter of my femur starts to turn into jelly.

 

So, I say you should have this CD in your collection today. Pour yourself a glass of wine, go for a hike with your headset or do whatever it is you like to do to give some space for this music. Free yourself, let the tears flow if they may. Laurie Lewis has been a creative and inspirational force in bluegrass and folk music for a long time. Let her reach out and touch you. The last song is called This Is Our Home. Boy, as I look out at the lonely street today, I feel that more than ever.

– Chris Brashear