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Finishing one of many listenings to a standout track from Opening Doors, the jazzy “Wayfaring Stranger” distinguished by Angel Edgemon’s vocals and Aaron Foster’s supportive guitar playing, I decided to punch the FM button. The WUNC folk show came on, halfway through that very same song. I don’t believe that ever happened to me before. It proved that this album contains a lot of strong songs.

If this CD was rising ETSU senior Bluegrass Pride Band member Aaron “Frosty” Foster’s undergraduate thesis, he would be graduated with highest honors. Of course, he got some high-level help. ETSU “lecturer” Adam Steffey lends his mandolin playing to 12 of the 14 selections. The Gibson Brothers, friends of Foster’s grandparents George and Etta Crawford, provide the harmony vocals on three songs with Leigh Gibson on yet another. ETSU instructors Wyatt Rice and Jeremy Fritts play on two. Another ETSU instructor, Brandon Green, has a lot of fine moments on banjo, straddling the line of classic and contemporary on a dozen pieces.

Besides “Wayfaring Stranger,” there are several highlight tracks. Edgemon’s vocals shine again on a standout version of “There Is A Time,” refreshingly different from The Dillards’ original. “Songbird” features Foster’s finest outing on lead vocals, supported perfectly by the Gibsons. Rice, Fritts, and Foster apply triple guitars to a delightful “Temperance Reel.”

While the performances are uniformly strong, the album exhibits a certain unevenness in selection of material. Several familiar songs from the bluegrass canon are extremely well played, but others are unremarkable versions. “I’m Using My Bible For A Road Map,” for example, is pleasant but nothing new. All told, Opening Doors shows off Foster in a very positive light. (www.aaronfosterbluegrass.com)AM

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