Darin and Brooke Aldridge "Live at Red, White, and Bluegrass" Mountain Home
I have a passion for live, fan recordings of favorite bluegrass performers- whether the Del McCoury Band or a regional mainstay, a Tim O'Brien bluegrass set captured on digital equipment, or something from the pioneers, recorded on bulky reel-to-reel machines by archivists with vision- I devour that stuff.
There is something special about the liveliness of a bluegrass band when they are firing on all cylinders- the interaction between band members, a palatable audience rapport, the fullness of the music where instruments harmonize with vocals in a manner that would seem impossible if we didn't witness it so frequently- you can't beat a top-notch bluegrass band recorded live. When the recording is left intact, without major manipulation, the effect is that much more impactful.
This recent release from Darin and Brooke Aldridge embodies that spirit. Recorded this past July 1st, and capturing the band prior to the recent departure of fiddler Rachel Johnson Boyd, this early evening set provides a neat snapshot of the six-piece emerging as one of bluegrass music's most charming and engaging outfits.
"Live at Red, White, and Bluegrass" finds the self-proclaimed 'sweethearts of bluegrass' in excellent form, and they aren't afraid to give the legends their due. From the first generation, the Aldridges renew The Osborne's Making Plans and Flatt & Scruggs' (and Uncle Josh's) Foggy Mountain Rock, and George Shuffler's When He Beckons Me Home.
Still, many of the group's fans are most interested in songs culled from their two secular, bluegrass releases. In this 40-minute album, a slate of their familiar material is presented, including three from the duo's favourite songwriter, Lisa Shaffer- the nostalgic Corn, Lonely Ends Where Love Begins,andThat's Just Me Loving You- as well as Every Scar and He's Already There. Non-country covers include To Know Him is to Love Him, which takes on a gospel feel in these hands, Powderfinger and the pleasant surprise of the recording, Shania Twain's No One Needs to Know.
Darin and Brooke are formidable, both possessing pleasing voices- his long reminding one of Vince Gill, she just as smooth and homespun with a bit of gloss evident: they sing especially well together, perhaps most apparent on the show-stopping Sweetest Waste of Time.
Not being privy to the details of the recording, I have no way of knowing if this is an unvarnished, complete record of their 2012 Red, White and Bluegrass festival set, but it sounds as if it may be. By not editing out the occasionally awkward but natural between-song banter and emcee work, it appears Darin and Brooke Aldridge have chosen to present their live show as it was performed. Each of the band members has their feature moments, including Matt Love on the set closing enigma that is Neil Young's Powderfinger.
This is how I like my live bluegrass albums to sound- real; if anything was overdubbed or 'fixed' in-studio, it isn't apparent. "Live at Red, White, and Bluegrass" isn't essential, but it broadens my perspective of Darin and Brooke Aldridge.