While Passing Along This Wayby Nancy Blake
Following his highly prolific relationship with Rounder Records, multi-instrumentalist Norman Blake found an equally congenial home for his music at Shanachie. The first fruits of this new partnership were four collaborative albums with his wife, Nancy, all of which earned the duo Grammy nominations for Best Traditional Folk Album. A pair of folk music faithfuls, Norman and Nancy Blake balance the traditional material they love with original compositions in the old-timey vein on While Passing Along This Way. The Blakes cover a wide spectrum of traditional styles and themes from "He's Passing This Way," a hymn that recalls the Stanley Brothers and "Sweet Freedom" with its echoes of the Carter Family, to the bluegrass-tinged "Sweet Heaven" and the fiddle showcase "Old Mother Flanagan." Nancy Blake's harmony work and acoustic guitar playing mesh expertly with her husband's. For the most part her voice remains well in the background, but it's plainly obvious, listening to material like "The Grave of Bonaparte" and "Old Stepstone," how much it is enriching this music. The couple's two guitars sound like one instrument on the graceful, finger-picked instrumental medley "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine/Going Down the Valley." Adept at a number of string instruments, Norman Blake sticks largely to guitar, though he's also in fine form on fiddle, dobro, and mandolin. These are expert musicians who, through their loyalty to this rich tradition, have done a great deal to keep its spirit alive.
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