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Red Tail Ring - Fall Away Blues (Earthwork Music)
Originating out of the fabulously-named Kalamazoo, Michigan, Red Tail Ring are the acoustic duo of Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp who play a mix of original songs, reworkings of contemporary pieces, and traditional ballads on guitar, fiddle and banjo. FALL AWAY BLUES is their fourth album and is full of their characteristic close harmonies, tasteful arrangements and sparse instrumentation.
There's an integrity to their playing that is evident in the unpretentious approach of their arrangements and that works equally well with traditional material and their own compositions. The deep-felt sentiments of something like Gibson Town - their powerful account of a tragic 2016 mass shooting in their home town - benefit from being presented in this unassuming fashion as much as the traditional Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies or the Sacred Harp reworking Wondrous Love.
The three traditional songs and one tune blend effortlessly with the self-written pieces and it doesn't hurt that the playing throughout the album - whether on guitar and fiddle or twin banjos - is precise and unobtrusive and the vocals are heartfelt yet understated. Perhaps the standout original song is the title track, played on guitar and fiddle with Laurel's lead and Michael's harmony vocals perfectly signposting the song's sense of resignation coupled with a determination to overcome adversity.
It would be a pity if Red Tail Ring were grouped into that redundant category of 'Americana' as their repertoire and overall approach is much too distinctive for such an oversimplified term. Here is a duo writing sincerely-felt original material that plays off a deep understanding of old time American traditions. They may look to the past for their musical inspiration - and when they do they pay it due respect - but they have a contemporary touch that breathes new life into old traditions and both re-invents and re-energises them.