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Ashleigh Caudill

Looney Bird – 2016 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by Ashleigh Caudill

Ashleigh Caudill's instrument - her voice - rings clear and true on her self-released CD. Caudill's material, all of which he had a hand in composing, admirably displays her talent. The vibe conveys lazy high mountain summer days and endless possibilities of love and adventure. Not a bad place to be. "Sugarloaf Mountain" the second cut,exemplifies this: a sweet fiddle line, light banjo counterpoint and Caudill's inviting but powerful vocals.

True to the bluegrass genre, Caudill checks in with at least three train songs; "Pork Pie Hat," in which she ventures into a slight lower vocal range with equal effect. Matt Wingate (who played with Claire Lynch for about four years) and Della Mae's Jenni Lyn Gardner on mandolin mix nicely with Caudill's voice. "Bonnie The Engineer" gives a 21st century take to the oft-told struggles of trainmen/women/persons.

Caudill collaborated with David Grier ("Franklin County"), Jess Ross, on the title cut, Wingate on "Bonnie" and the prolific Jon Weisberger on "Wait For The Sun To Shine Again." Caudill, who co-produced with Jim Hurst, plays with a tight claw hammer banjo style and even plays bass on a few cuts.

The side players shine, notably Gardner, Joe K. Walsh, a mandolinist who never disappoints, and Byron McDowell on fiddle. Grier, a master guitarist, makes a cameo as well, on "Around Town," a smoky number in which Walsh's mandola nearly steals the show. Until Caudill's bass break, that is.

Caudill's voice and songwriting chops display a hearty, soulful, crisp, but straight-ahead approach.