Skippin’ And Flyin’
Spruce And Maple 2006
Though virtually unknown east of the Mississippi until the mid-1980s, the past three decades have seen Laurie Lewis establish herself as one of the leading lights of American acoustic music, a genuine national treasure. Though best known for the bluegrass she’s performed with her various bands over the years (Grant Street, the Bluegrass Pals, the Right Hands) as well as on solo projects, she’s also branched out into country, swing, blues and anything else that highlights her sweet-yet-earthy voice and elemental fiddle playing. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that if the “Americana” format wasn’t invented for her, it should have been.
Released last year, this is her personal tribute to and remembrance of Bill Monroe in the centennial year of his birth. Like countless others she found inspiration not only in his music, but in the man himself, and it’s no coincidence the album photography features her dressed to the nines, Blue Grass Boy style, circa 1950s – right down to the crisp, pristine Stetson. There are, of course, Monroe tunes – three of them, in fact: “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”; “Old Ten Broeck” (a traditional tune Monroe worked up as “Molly And Ten Brooks”; and “A Lonesome Road”, associated with Monroe, though written by Joe Earle Stuart.
She also gives nods to the people before and after Monroe without whom bluegrass would not have become what it is, the Carter Family (“Carter’s Blues”), Jimmie Rodgers (“Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues”) and Flatt and Scruggs (“What’s Good For You”). Her own originals like “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” and “American Chestnuts” are worthy additions, but perhaps the most attention-grabbing track is contemporary singer-songwriter Mark Erelli’s “Hartfordtown 1944,” about a tragic circus fire. All exquisitely arranged and performed, this is Laurie Lewis as good as she’s ever been.
— John Lupton