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Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Faster and Farther – 2017 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Darin & Brooke Aldridge

Over five previous recordings, Darin and Brooke Aldridge have shown themselves as mainstream bluegrass's most capable duo. When exploring traditional themes, blending stunning harmony arrangements and extending praise through gospel numbers, the Aldridges have demonstrated that their mature, professional approach to their craft is second-to-none. With "Faster and Farther," the Aldridges branch off just a little from the bluegrass tree, encompassing elements not apparent on previous releases and pushing themselves to embrace additional aspects of their artistic palate. The album is a stellar representation of what modern bluegrass can be when artists trust their instincts and look outside for inspiration.

Three notable guests appear throughout, providing subtle coloring to their music. John Cowan contributes two compositions and appears on four tracks, and his recognizable voice flavors the numbers. Most significantly, he fires up the refrain of the charting "Lila," while awkwardly using "walk" twice in the opening couplet, "Lila" emerges as a satisfying portrait of a troubled relationship.

Vince Gill, to whom Darin Aldridge's singing has frequently been compared, sings on "Mountains in Mississippi" and "Highway of Heartache." Pat Flynn contributes two and plays on three songs; his "Kingdom Come" kicks off the album and is a fiery showcase not only for Brooke's aggressive vocal approach, but also for Shad Cobb's prominent fiddle. Other guest musicians include bassists Barry Bales and Tim Surrett and Tyler Collins, who plays guitar and Dobro throughout as well as a bit of banjo.

The Aldridges turn to Carl Jackson for three songs including the convincing "Fit for a King," an inspirational number co-written with James Rushing. Less successful is the meandering "Eugene and Diane," a song whose protagonists prove the best choices are often those not made; while we are to empathize with the missed opportunity presented, the song isn't among Jackson's finest.

Stronger is their rendering of Ian Tyson's timeless "Someday Soon" as well as additional songs of faith including "Sacred Lamb" and "Heaven Just Got Sweeter for You." The Cowan-Darrel Scott co-write "Cumberland Plateau" is given an impressive trio-harmony arrangement that should resonate with listeners and is the album's most satisfying track. While both Aldridges are significant vocalists, it is likely past time that Brooke starts getting recognized at awards time for the quality of her singing.

If "Faster and Farther" has a discernible weakness it is the lack of banjo prominence across the album, most obviously an artistic choice.

Darin and Brooke Aldridge have established an identifiable sound. With "Faster and Farther" they have further refined their approach as purveyors of smooth bluegrass.