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Tara Nevins

Wood and Stone – 2011 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Tara Nevins

Best known for her tenure with rootsy groove-grassers Donna The Buffalo, Tara Nevins' infrequent solo excursions (This is her first since 1999) show that she's equally capable of creating a pretty good vibe of her own. This time around she's closer in texture and spirit to her main band on songs such as the zydeco-infused All I Ever Needed or the swinging country of the title track.

Nevins' own stamp is placed upon the more sedate numbers, such as the beautiful closing ballad Beauty of the Days Gone By, borrowed from Van Morrison, but in Nevins' hands sounding much like an Appalachian lament. It's here that Nevins' plaintive voice takes center stage, somewhere between Gillian Welch and Iris Dement on the emotional twang scale.

Just as she turned an Irish rocker's composition into a folk song, Nevins' own contemporary tunes sound timeless; Snowbird, for example, could easily pass for a decades-old traditional tune. Elsewhere, Nevins channels her own version of Kurt Weill on the dark, eerie Stars Fell On Alabama.

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell provides a large part of the musical support here, but the cast also includes guest spots from Levon Helm, Jim Lauderdale and Alison Moorer. None of the extra firepower can obscure the good-natured Nevins, who sounds right at home front and center - hopefully she won't wait a dozen more years before releasing another solo effort.