Stay Awhileby Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin
It's always hard not to be suspicious of musicians from urban areas who play old-timey and bluegrass music. The suspicion is many times justified, as coffeehouse denizens from Greenwich Village to the Haight have all too often been subjected to the naïvely romantic "I really wish I was a poor Kentucky coal miner, but unfortunately I have a gigantic trust fund" school of overly earnest folk performance. Luckily, there are also musicians who become true disciples of traditional music, managing to selflessly infuse the songs with their own unique and genuine human experience. Brooklyn-born Jody Stecher and his wife Kate Brislin are wonderful examples of the latter. On Stay Awhile, the duo's fourth album together, Stecher and Brislin approach their music with a relaxed simplicity, passion, and off-handed confidence reminiscent of the Carter Family. This is the kind of music one would hope to hear in the fire-warmed living room of good friends on a cold winter day. That said, Stay Awhile isn't purely a feel-good record. As usual, Stecher and Brislin are at their best on more melancholy tunes like "Jack Monroe" and "Short Life of Trouble." In fact, the former song is the disc's greatest moment, as it showcases Brislin's voice, with its sublime lack of showiness, to spine-tingling effect. Other highlights include the easy virtuosity displayed on the harmonically challenging "Laybourne's Hornpipe/The Grants' Hornpipe" and the Stecher original "Seventeen Cents," which is destined to be a classic. Overall, Stay Awhile shows two master musicians at the top of their game, playing with a level of taste and sensitivity that many bigger-name players would do well to note and imitate.
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