Carrie Hassler has a beautiful voice, one that is expressive and versatile, running from smooth to sultry to bluesy to chin-up shoulders-back powerful. All those qualities illustrate this, her third recording, her first since 2008, and first without her group, Hard Rain.
Hassler jumps on it right at the start, reprising the Graham Parsons classic, “Luxury Liner.” While making a nod toward Emmylou Harris, whose recording inspired her, they are merely inflections, and Hassler gives the song her own authoritative and forceful stamp. She then lets the song close on a string of solos by guests Tim Stafford, Ron Stewart, Justin Moses, Mark Fain and Alan Bibey. Being a classic cover and receiving a powerhouse reading makes it one of the highlight tracks, though it also proves to be the only uptempo tune on the recording and one of two that lets the soloists roll, the other being the medium-tempo, traditional-leaning “Get Me Over You.”
Of course, Hassler and her voice are the focus, and the remaining six songs, all of them slow to slow/medium and contemporary, reflect that. “All I Have To Do Is Breathe” has a nice lilt and flow, but it is somewhat overshadowed by the other two standout tracks, “Catch My Breath” and “Eugene And Diane.” “Catch My Breath” is 1950s and ’60s country, pedal steel and percussion. Hassler wanted to capture that feel and she does with room to spare and is at her emotional best. Equally emotional, though in a contemporary bluegrass style, is the cautionary tale of “Eugene And Diane,” a duet with Steve Gulley. This is one of those songs that could easily fall victim to over emoting, but neither Gulley nor Hassler lets that happen and the song is a gem. Those two and the opener make this a very good recording. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet. TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW