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Stone City Stragglers

It's Never Too Late to Mend – 2006 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Linda Dailey Paulson

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CDs by Stone City Stragglers

From the whimsical cover art featuring wacky calaveras, with Stone City Stragglers, you're in for what promises to be an interesting musical trip. The initial track - "Freakshow Addiction" - fully supports that observation.

On that and on the atmospheric title track, Phil Lazzari's mandolin is restrained and pleasantly lyrical. But these are about as bluegrass as this collection gets. The tracks, namely "I Fell Numb," have more in common with Shelby Lynne's rock-tinged "I Am Shelby Lynne." There's only one cover - "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - in this wholly original project headed by lead vocalist and singer-songwriter Brent James.

What makes this attractive is its unexpected variety and inviting looseness. That's not to say that the music isn't absolutely tight. It is. And the vocal harmonies added by Lazzari, Karen Moats and Allison Moroni are as well.

The soaring guitar leads and solid rhythm section with interesting lagniappe percussive touches like maracas, cowbell (!) and shambling cymbals throughout also add significant texture. "Magnolia" and "Hot Tar & Rain" are the other requisite ballads, but most of the fare is of the uptempo hip-shaking sort. A surprise is "The Uprising" - an instrumental that can only be described as spaghetti western soundtrack on steroids.