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Uncle Earl

She Waits for Night – 2005 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Uncle Earl

Women playing stringed instruments. It's nothing new, of course, dating back as far as the Carters and as recently as the Dixie Chicks. But it sure has a good vibe, especially with the all-female quartet Uncle Earl. Named after a mythical wild-eyed relative, Kristin Andreassen, Rayna Gellert, KC Groves and Abigail Washburn are firmly planted in traditional string music, but occasionally let their crazy relation side show.

Their 14-cut debut is primarily string band standards they picked up from some mighty obscure sources. Murder song "Willie Taylor" is a mellow - albeit violent - Irish ballad while "Old Bunch of Keys" and "Ida Red" are foot-stomping, your-crazy-uncle's-at-it-again romps. And here's a nice touch: The girls also include fiddle and banjo chord progressions in the liner notes - even on their own tunes.

The musicianship is respectable and the harmonies are pleasant. No over-the-top a cappella tunes to show off. They're restrained and professional about it. No matter how wild mythical Uncle Earl may be, this band deserves a seat of honor in the long line of female pickers and singers.