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UNCLE EARL - Waterloo, Tennessee

UNCLE EARL - Waterloo, Tennessee
Rounder ROUCD577

Waterloo, Tennessee comes just two years after the landmark She Waits For Night – the first emergence of their self-termed “old-time for our times” sound, during which time this all-female four piece has truly got its act together.  In 1999 they were an assembled road band, put together to promote one of singer/mandolin player, K.C. Groves’ recording projects, and corralled from various parts of the USA.  Each was established as a soloist but the current grouping of Groves’ bandmates Abigail Washburn on banjo, Rayna Gellert on fiddle and Kristin Andreassen on guitar/fiddle clicked into place in 2003.  Since then, a hard-headed tour and festival schedule has honed them into today’s hot ticket.  This CD appropriately exhibits a played-in feel, making a convincing case for producer John Paul Jones’ freewheeling, tactility.

The set veers between the almost accompaniment-free Easy In The Early to the driving instrumentals such as Sisters Of The Road.  Add the forlorn ruefulness of One True and the wistful I May Never and you have a collection that’s both reverent and celebratory.  The album works as an impressive contribution to the current stateside renewal of the relevance in all things country.  Though epitomised by upbeat fiddle-led material that is the hallmark of matters stringbanded or bluegrassed such as I Wish I Had My Time Again, the brooding My Little Carpenter and ominous My Epitaph have an ancient simplicity about them, ringing clear and true.  The band gets the mix of original and traditional material absolutely right and all in all it makes for an alluring package, adding to the feeling that Uncle Earl have come of age.  Oh yes, there really is a Waterloo in Tennessee – one of the g’Earls claims to have seen the road sign en route to Nashville.

This record soars - somewhere both Charlie Poole and Bill Monroe are smiling and nodding their heads.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.