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.