On this, her second solo CD, Kathy Barwick enhances her growing reputation as a sensitive and imaginative interpreter of American and Celtic fiddle tunes. Playing guitar, resonator guitar, banjo, mandolin, Weissenborn guitar, and even bass, the former All Girl Boy from central California has assembled another stellar collection of a dozen tracks.
As an instrumentalist, Barwick makes it clear throughout that her priorities are tone and taste. Using uncluttered arrangements and inventive and subtly surprising harmonic shifts, she’s able to make old tunes sound fresh and new tunes sound familiar. “Little Rabbit,” here done as a mandolin duet with Stan Miller, weaves and darts unpredictably like its namesake, while her sensitive use of the deep rich tonal qualities of the Weissenborn gives a haunting and timeless quality to her medley of “Down By The Sally Garden”/“Down In The Willow Garden.”
She also mines her experience at playing with Celtic and contradance bands to present some great tunes that might be undeservedly unfamiliar to bluegrass audiences, such as “Calliope House” and “Caribou,” while adding some sweet original compositions of her own, such as “The Cantara Loop” and the title track. It’s also an asset to the album that she ventures a bit more to the forefront as a vocalist than on her debut release. She takes the lead role on “Sweet Sunny South” and “Southern Railroad,” more than ably supported by the harmonies of, respectively, Suzanne Thomas and Samantha Olson. Additionally, befitting someone who is such a gifted accompanist, she takes on a complementary role as she turns over the lead singing and featured space to sometime bandmate Pete Siegfried on his original song, “Childhood Memories.”
Braeburn is the kind of recording that is so understated that, in a world of all-star rosters and in-your-face production, it runs the risk of being overlooked. But Kathy Barwick is clearly a musician who deserves to be heard, and, given a listen, I think you’ll find the music on this CD growing on you more and more. (FGM Records, P.O. Box 2160, Pulaski, VA 24301, www.fgmrecords.com.)HK