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Salamandar Crossing

Bottleneck Dreams – 1998 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Salamandar Crossing

Salamandar Crossing's second disc is a gorgeous piece of work with sublime moments like the faithful version of Blue Rodeo's "5 Days In May," or the almost funky gospel number, "Paul and Peter Walked." Rani Arbo's sultry voice may be quite unexpected in standard bluegrass, but this is no ordinary Appalachian ensemble. Andrew Kinsey and Jeff Kelliher complete a triple vocal threat within the group that makes their songs leap out with freshness and vitality.

The only apparent weakness here may be the group's own songwriting - the best material is by outside writers, with only 5 of 12 cuts band written. One's an instrumental, another a musical adaptation of a Tennyson poem, "Crossing The Bar." For bluegrass music, that's not necessarily a fault, since many of the genre's best play the same traditional songs, but Salamander Crossing seems to be going for a little bit more than the tried and true.