Bluegrass and old-time country has a lengthy history of famous brother duos. Whether named Louvin, Stanley, Osborne, Monroe, or McReynolds, the sound of two siblings singing close harmony defines a great part of what makes bluegrass so unique and compelling. The sound is so distinctive, it carried far beyond the walls of time to influence singing styles of more modern artists ranging from the Everly Brothers and The Beatles, to modern stars such as Gillian Welch & David Rawlings and the Milk Carton Kids.
Oddly, there’s been less of an impact by sister/female harmony acts in traditional bluegrass and country. The Whites and the Carters certainly come to mind, but it never became a hot style in bluegrass. Into that void steps Leanna and Lauren Price, twin sisters from Monroe County, Ohio, an area steeped in traditional bluegrass and lore. Backed by a group of seasoned pros including Charlie Cushman, Bryan Sutton, Mike Bub, and others, A Heart Never Knowsthreads the needle of great taste and polished musical skills without ever losing focus on the talents of the two stars here.
Lauren is a gifted interpreter of straight-from-the-still Monroe-style bluegrass mandolin. A powerful and dynamic player, she was invited to teach at a recent iteration of mandolin master Mike Compton’s annual Monroe Mandolin Camp. It’s clear from this recording she deserves to be recognized as an emerging star in this highly demanding mandolin style. Working with top mandolin pros Scott Napier and the legendary Bobby Osborne as mentors has given her a well of inspiration to draw upon as she matures as a musician.
Leanna (the shorter of the sisters) loves the traditional sounds of Kenny Baker, whom she enthusiastically cites as her favorite bluegrass fiddler. She brings a clear, steady alto voice when taking lead on “You’ve Been A Friend To Me,” “Remembrance Is A Golden Chain,” and the title track. Lauren’s voice has a bit more vibrato and sounds a bit darker, making their blend richer and fuller for the differences between their timbres. When their voices truly sync, such as on the gorgeous rendition of “If I’m Going To Be Lonely” by Shawn Camp and Paul Craft, the Price sisters create a wonderful vocal sound that harks back to the golden age of country harmony. As to be expected from young musicians still growing and developing their craft, not every vocal line is perfectly delivered and their harmonies wander from time to time.
While the harmonies drive this band, both women are excellent instrumentalists. Their lively, sparkling rendition of Monroe’s little-known “The Lee Wedding Tune” shows how deeply both have studied the styles of their mentors and inspirations.
This fine follow-up to 2016’s self-titled EP (produced by Bil VornDick) captures two gifted young musicians as they mature and begin finding a truly unique and individual sound. This is a strong first full-length album from two musicians who have a bright future ahead. So, in this case, The Prices are most definitely right. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)DJM