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Lou Reid & Carolina

Live at the Down Home 20th Anniversary Concert – 2013 (Kma)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Lou Reid & Carolina

Lou Reid knows bluegrass. His professional career began with Doyle Lawson, then he played with Ricky Skaggs and later the Seldom Scene, went to the country side with Vince Gill and Vern Gosdin (both with bluegrass in their resumes). He started Carolina with friend Terry Baucom (who later went out on his own) and, with the passing of John Duffey, he went back to the Scene while keeping Carolina alive and well.

There's always a risk in recording a live disc (if you stay true to the live format) because there may be a wart or two along the way, but a live CD is the next best thing to having been there. Included here was Amanda Lynn, a number one hit for Reid. It's an uptempo love song about a love affair between two young people of warring families. He sings, "Amanda Lynn, you're sweet music to my ears." You have to wonder if there is a double entendre here as "Amanda Lynn" sounds a lot like "a mandolin," Reid's favorite instrument.

She's More To Be Pitied was a Stanley Brothers original, probably written by Carter Stanley but shown as composed by Ruby Rakes, the brothers' half sister. It's sung on this show by Reid's wife (and bass player) Christy. She is a good singer and does most of the emcee work. If you're going to find anything irritating about the CD it will be the decisions made about cutting off the between-songs chatter. Some talk gives it a live feel, but it wanders off into obscurity (for the CD listener, perhaps not someone at the show) and you're soon saying "enough, already."

Reid does an excellent rendition of the Long Black Veil that includes the soulful sound of Justin Moses' fiddle and excellent harmony singing. Another showcase for their harmony singing is an a cappella version of Lord Have Mercy On My Soul, co-written by Reid and part of the Seldom Scene's repertoire. Another Reid and T. M. Coleman number, I Call Your Name, is kicked off by banjoist Trevor Watson with a break by guitarist Kevin Richardson. It's a lesson in how to sing a bluegrass song.

Whether the song is scorching hot like When It Rains or a song that slows things down and turns your thoughts inward, like Time, Lou Reid is simply one of the best singers in the business.