It’s the mark of master musicians that they can play and sing with power, strong intonation, and rock-solid timing, yet, if they choose, produce lovely and even gently beautiful music. Mandolinist/vocalist Jimmy Gaudreau and guitarist/vocalist Moondi Klein are masters, and their talents have yielded the lyrical and engaging new album Home From The Mills.
Make no mistake, this is not a soft recording. On the contrary, it goes from strength to strength in its well-chosen material, informed by the skillful passion of these veteran performers. That’s evident from the opening track, “Bending Blades” by Tim O’Brien. Guest harmony singer Lauren Klein, Moondi’s daughter, joins for a beautifully blended trio and you practically feel the breeze sweeping through a field of grasslands and memories. Gaudreau and Klein draw on other topnotch songwriters, ranging from Eric Anderson (“Close The Door Lightly When You Go”) and Townes Van Zandt (“If I Needed You”) to John Starling (“C&O Canal”) and even famed country gospel composer Albert E. Brumley (“I’d Rather Live By The Side Of The Road”).
Two especially successful—and entirely different—songs are “Enferment les Yeux,” an aria from the 1884 French opera Manon, and the 1930s pop hit “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie,” sung by Klein and Gaudreau respectively. No matter how much of a bluegrass/old-time fan you might be, chances are you’ll be charmed by these tracks. And for the traditionalists, there are lively instrumentals on tap, including a tasty “Whiskey Before Breakfast”/“Red Haired Boy” medley and “Fisher’s Hornpipe.” On these and several of the vocals, Gaudreau and Klein make innovative use of mandola and octave mandolin.
You may have already enjoyed these two wonderful performers in bands as memorable as the Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, Tony Rice Unit and Chesapeake. Or you may be intrigued by the special pleasures of a sturdy instrumental/vocal duet (a format which, it seems, is making a resurgence these days). Or you might just like great players lovingly serving up fine traditional and contemporary bluegrass/folk material. If one or more of the above is true, pick up Home From The Mills and enjoy. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906 www.rebelrecords.com.)RDS