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Sister Sadie

Sister Sadie – 2016 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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When news broke three years ago that there was yet another bluegrass supergroup on the horizon - joining the ranks of Flashback, Band of Ruhks, Sideline, The Earls of Leicester and all the rest - one's interest was piqued with the mention that all members were female.

Yes, bluegrass has been around for 70 years now, and there have been any number of prominent female pickers and singers who have made their mark on the music. It remains rare, however, for an all-female outfit featuring well-established personalities to come together to perform and record.

Sister Sadie is one hell of a band!

Presenting multiple lead vocalists - guitarist and five-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley, mandolinist Tina Adair (The Tina Adair Band) and banjoist Gena Britt (Alan Bibey & Grasstowne) - with fiddler Deanie Richardson (New Coon Creek Girls, Patty Loveless, Bob Seger and anyone else she wants) and bassist Beth Lawrence (who also takes a lead turn on an interpretation of the late '70s, soft-rock hit "Falling"), Sister Sadie not only has individual name recognition, but an appealing, unified bluegrass approach.

Blending the driving force of kiss-off songs (Adair's "Now Forever's Gone" and "Not This Time") with more reflective numbers (Britt sings lead on "I May Be a Fool" and Adair takes on the country classic "Don't Let Me Cross Over"), Sister Sadie has found an ideal bluegrass balance. Bring in four songs on which Bradley sings lead, including Richardson's "Unholy Water" and the eternally disturbing "Blood Red & Goin' Down," with a lively fiddle tune ("Ava's Fury"), and the substance of this recording becomes apparent.

Dedicating the album to bluegrass innovator Lynn Morris, and taking a run at her classic "Don't Tell Me Lies," Sister Sadie has paid homage to the power of their gender's role in bluegrass and country music - five females have songwriting credits.

Most importantly, the group has crafted a bluegrass album that stands with the finest released this year: Jeff White's "Right Beside You," Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands' "The Hazel and Alice Sessions," The Boxcar's "Familiar with the Ground" and James Reams' "Rhyme & Season."