Prime Cuts: Tennessee Flat Top Box, Let It Be Me, Wait Till the Clouds Roll By
Bluegrass music often fall into a grave trapping. In an effort to get every piece of string on every instrument to be shimmering in lightning paced speed, many bluegrass songs sound like a race against time. As a result, many such songs sound like it's an exhibition of which virtuoso can be playing at the highest velocity with little regard for the song's meaning and nuances. Throughout their career what sets husband and wife Darin and Brooke Aldridge apart from many other bluegrass peers is that they are conscious of trying to side step such a genre fallacy. And for most part they have succeeded. The alternating of voices between both Darin and Brooke within songs is itself a plus. This adds perspectives and tones that flourish the songs with greater depth. Also, the Aldridges as a whole have a way of re-reading covers without woodenly following the originals. Previously their take of Nanci Griffith's "Outbound Plane" and Shania Twain's "No One Needs to Know" are creative gems.
On "Snapshots," the couple's sixth album together, the Aldridges try to look back on their lives musically by choosing songs that help capture those priceless Kodak moments that mean something to them personally. Such an exercise of retrospection means that there is higher proportion of covers. And truth be told, their covers easily steal the limelight of this album. Though the #7 hit was first recorded by Everly Brothers in 1960, it has been a perennial evergreen that has been re-recorded tirelessly by artists as diverse as Emmylou Harris, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Collin Raye and many others. The Alderidges doesn't try to re-invent the wheel. But with an acoustic-folk backing with some plaintive-sounding banjos, "Let It Be Me" has a fresh paint of melancholy to it that is intoxicating.
Another cover that the bluegrass couple really transform into their own currency is Roseanne Cash's #1 hit "Tennessee Flat Top Box." An Alice Gray-sort of a heartwarming inspirational story of a boy who defies the odds to fulfill his dreams as a musician, "Tennessee Flat Top Box" is such a boost to the heart. Speaking of inspirational material, there's a strong core of Christian songs on this record, many of them revolve around our mortality and the Lord's coming. Brooke Aldridge sounds so much like Emmylou Harris in her 80s heydays with "When He Calls," a sobering ballad that asks of us where we will be in the moment of death.
Reeling through a well-crafted narrative with the gorgeous strumming of the acoustic guitar, the hopeful "Wait Till the Clouds Roll By" will get us glued to every unfolding twist of this well-structured song. However, with Bill Monroe's "Get Up John" and "Rose of Old Kentucky," the Aldriges are more or less in cruise control on what seems to be acceptable without being exceptional renderings of these bluegrass classics. "Snapshots" is not perfect but when it comes to taking pictures of life's salient moments that inspire, the Aldridges have quite the touch.
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