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Mark Newton

Hillbilly Hemingway – 2006 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Mark Newton

Excellent musicians and singers (like Mark Newton, Stuart Duncan, Randy Kohrs plus Carl Jackson on harmonies), good material, a renowned bluegrass producer (Jackson) make for a killer album.

Newton follows different paths. The Jackson-penned numbers have a newgrass feel; the title cut, an ode to Hank Williams, is especially interesting and the comparison of Williams to Hemingway is apt. Then there are the ballads that reach out and touch you, like "Blessings" sung by bass player Beth Lawrence and "It's a Good Town To Die In." He and Jackson reach back a lot of years for an excellent version of "Fraulein." In a nod to traditionalists there's a driving instrumental and a great gospel number, "When The Trumpet Sounds."

There is a good mix of instruments throughout the selection of songs with the Dobro occupying a front seat position on several of them. Newton turns over lead singing chores on several tracks which adds interest and anticipation as you listen. A special bonus is the inclusion of the lyrics in the cover booklet.

If there is any question mark, it is the diversity of the music: while half the numbers will find high favor with traditionalists the other half may be too "new" for them. New or old, though, they are performed with excellence.