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Finding new talent in bluegrass is always a thrill, especially when it’s someone with the gifts of newcomer Michelle Canning. Based in eastern Massachusetts, Canning and her band Rough Edges play a combination of fast-driving bluegrass, contemporary ballads, standards, and original material.

For her debut CD, Canning puts her bluegrass-flavored spin on country songs from George Jones (“I’d Jump The Mississippi”) and Buck Owens (“Love’s Gonna Live Here”). Rhonda Vincent guests with lead and harmony vocals on “The Blues Ain’t Workin’ On Me.”  Also joining Canning  in the studio were her guitar player in the band, T. Shaun Batho, Dan Bui (mandolin), Cosmo Cavicchio (bass), Conor Smith (fiddle), Raymond McLain (harmony vocals), Thomas Albert (harmony vocals), Ruth McLain (harmony vocals), Becki Alfrey (harmony vocals). Canning delivers a delicious spread for the instrumental, “Carolina Cookout,” and ably tackles Bill Monroe’s “Katy Hill.” The award-winning banjoist also showcases her skills on bass and guitar, as well as lead and harmony singing.

While you’re certain to enjoy her performing talents, pay close attention to her creative songwriting. She wrote “High Above The Mountains” and “The Flower And The Serpent.” Here’s a sample of the title-track: I can see clear through the branches at the creature’s wicked eyes/They all know what’s going on, but they don’t comfort, they just spy. Canning says of that section of the song, “I really like this line because it is truthful of so many situations where people know that someone is being hurt, but they are afraid to get involved by telling them. Instead, they just sit back and watch it happen.” If this first CD is any indication of what is ahead for Canning, I can’t wait to see what she creates next.  (MCRE Band, P.O. Box 5103, Andover, MA 01810, www.mcreband.com.)BC

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