Darin and Brooke AldridgeDARIN AND BROOKE ALDRIDGE

Rounder Records

On their breakout debut CD for Rounder Records, two-time IBMA Female Vocalist Of The Year Brooke Aldridge and husband Darin, along with an excellent production team and cast of stellar supporting musicians, have produced one of the first great bluegrass releases of 2020. Born and bred in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, both singers seemed destined for a life in bluegrass music after showing great promise early on. They married in 2008 and have had a strong, successful career since.

Inner Journey moves this duo to the top tier. The album is arranged around Brooke’s stellar voice. Having your own sound is what every musician strives for, and Brooke succeeds in creating a unique timbre and style that makes her voice instantly recognizable. Darin knows exactly how to sing close harmony with his wife to create that elusive brother-duo sound, and they make that their trademark sound. Give them the Louvin Brothers’ classic “Every Time You Leave” and the Aldridges create a modern classic, keeping the original sound in sight, but underlaying a more modern-sounding vocal style to enhance it, a move pioneered by Alison Krauss & Union Station.

Song selection is one of this CD’s best qualities. When track seven opens and Brooke begins singing Nanci Griffith’s immortal “Trouble In The Fields,” it’s the first version I’ve ever heard that could make me forget Maura O’Connell’s stunning rendition. Fresh tunes like Richard Thompson’s up-tempo “Tear-Stained Letter,” complete with a smack-dab perfect fiddle solo from Aubrey Haynie, hit the listener like a jolt of fresh espresso. And “Emmylou,” a clever, engaging original from the Swedish folk duo First-Aid Kit, is perfect for the duo. Expanding their repertoire, Darin and Brooke present “Teach Your Children” from Graham Nash. Their version certainly looks back to the Crosby, Stills & Nash original with soaring harmonies and some slick pedal steel from Tommy White, but it has its own feel when Darin steps out to sing some lead.

Maybe Inner Journey’s finest moment is a somber, almost stately, retelling of Doc and Rosa Lee Watson’s austere “Your Lone Journey,” where the couple’s voices create an eerie, ethereal blend that’s perfect for the song’s lyrics about loss and endurance. It’s a sound that goes back to Bristol, perfectly suspended in time, sung by two true masters of the craft. If you’re already a fan of Darin & Brooke Aldridge, you know how good they are. If you’re not, Inner Journey will show you how great they can be. (www.rounder.com)DJM

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