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Uncle Earl

Waterloo, Tennnessee – 2007 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Uncle Earl

Even to those familiar with the genre, it sometimes appears that old time music is an ongoing competition among string bands to find the most arcane tunes from the most obscure sources. Fortunately, we have the ladies (or "g'Earls," as they like to style themselves) of Uncle Earl to set us all straight and demonstrate resoundingly that "old time" doesn't have to mean a lecture session of musical relics. This second Rounder disc vibrates with tributes to the tradition as well as a healthy sampling of new, original material that flows seamlessly into the drive and energy that attract fans to the music in the first place.

The core quartet - KC Groves, Kristin Andreasson, Abigail Washburn and Rayna Gellert) - are all quality singers, writers and instrumentalists, and Gellert is hands down among the best fiddlers around. Produced by John Paul Jones (yes, he of Led Zeppelin fame), "Waterloo, Tennessee" makes for a sterling bookend to their previous Dirk Powell-produced Rounder effort "She Waits For Night." Brit though he is, Jones shows a remarkable understanding of the music and his artists, and even sits in on a few cuts. It's still early, but this is likely to be on a lot of "Best of Roots, 2007" lists come December.