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Norman and Nancy Blake

The Morning Glory Ramblers – 2004 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Norman and Nancy Blake

The last few years have been difficult for the long-time husband wife duoof Norman and Nancy Blake, having had to say goodbye to some of their closest friends and family. The passing of both Johnny and June Cash reminded many that Norman had been a mainstay in the band on Johnny's landmark '60s television show. John Hartford's death prompted reissues of the Aeroplane Band sessions, of which Norman was also a part. Nancy lost her brother in 2003. On top of this, the Blakes themselves split up for a time, but as Norman has been reported to say, the divorce "didn't take," and they are back together personally and professionally, sounding as good as ever with this new collection.

Almost all of the 17 tracks are old country classics, from "The Sunny Side of Life" to "When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland." Several, such as "Elijah's God," are not so much gospel tunes as songs about the interweaving of faith and day-to-day life. Of particular interest is Nancy's recitation on "Men With Broken Hearts," written by Hank Williams in his "Luke the Drifter" persona. Some may find it a bit flat and unemotional, but in that way, it's not unlike Hank's original. At their best, the Blakes sound like a couple of friends who've stopped by to play in your parlor, and this is as friendly and neighborly as anything else they've done.