Happy Appy Records HAR-9

   Put plainly, Amy Gallatin is a fine and appealing vocalist, with a warmth, incisiveness, and sincerity to engagingly deliver a range of songs. You might hear echoes of singers as great and as varied as Emmylou Harris or Hazel Dickens, but all the while you’ll savor Gallatin’s distinctive personal style. On her latest album, Everything I Wanted Love To Be, Gallatin and the smoothly supportive Stillwaters band can be declarative or yearning, playful or plaintive, depending on the song, with a classic country flavor that adds to their basic bluegrass sound. It can only be hoped that this noteworthy new CD will bring them an even wider listenership. They surely deserve it.

A native of music-strong Muscle Shoals, Ala., who’s also spent time living in Idaho and Montana and successfully touring Europe, Gallatin is joined here by stalwarts of the New England bluegrass scene. Roger Williams, who has performed with the likes of the Lilly Brothers & Don Stover, Bill Harrell, and Delia Bell & Bill Grant, shines on resonator guitar and harmony vocals. (His duets with Gallatin are especially good, fulfilling the promise of their popular 2007 collaboration Something ’Bout You.) Eric Levenson, solid as always on  bass, has been an important player for Joe Val and the New England Boys, Hazel Dickens, Jack Tottle, and Orrin Starr, and also appears with current editions of Boston City Limits and the Charles River Boys. And J.D. Williams on mandolin, lead guitar, and vocals has an inventive style that nevertheless consistently fits the material. Not surprisingly, the younger Williams has not only learned at his father Roger’s knee, but also studied music seriously at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston and in other programs. (Fittingly, the album is dedicated to New England bluegrass pioneers Mac and Hazel McGee of White Mountain Bluegrass).

The band has also recruited some well-fitting guests, with fiddling by Ray Legere, three-finger banjo picking by Dave Dick, and clawhammer playing by Howie Bursen. The vocals and instrumentals are crisp and complimentary, and there’s no lack of outstanding material. Such classics as “I Dreamed Of An Old Love Affair,” “A Pathway Of Teardrops,” and “I Heard The Bluebirds Sing” are given fresh, enjoyable treatments. But the real revelations come in the work of talented songwriters Elly Beurskens, John Cadley, Ashleigh Caudill, Rick Lang, Ryan Roberts, and James Darrell Scott. In the opening number “They Said,” seemingly obvious judgments about neighbors are revealed as very wrong in very surprising ways. The title track, “Everything I Wanted Love To Be,” may give you wings while “The Only Thing Missing” (featuring a forlorn yet elegantly understated lead vocal by Roger Williams) and “Moon Over The Water” will absolutely tug at your heartstrings. Amy and her collaborators clearly have keen ears for exceptional new songs, performing each with pleasing creativity and praiseworthy sincerity. No wonder there’s so much to enjoy in this delightful album. Give yourself the pleasure of hearing it if you haven’t already. (Amy Gallatin, P.O. Box 313, Glastonbury, CT 06033,

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