Tellico hails from that bastion of bluegrass and hybrid bluegrass, Asheville, N.C. to deliver its sophomore album "Woven Waters.'' This effort melds their rather inherent bluegrass affinities with British Isle influences, courtesy of producer and bouzouki player Irishman John Doyle. Under Doyle's direction, chord choices and rhythmic dynamics are varied. The intertwining strings of mandolin, banjo, Dobro and guitar create a blend, aptly named in the album title. Beyond the refreshing sound though is some serious subject matter.
Just as the instruments mesh beautifully, the songs mix the personal with the political. The opener "Courage For the Morning" was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and those who marched with him. The song is a plea for justice with lyrics like "Did you ever walk when your feet were tired/Did you ever walk when the road was gone/Did you ever sing when your heart was achin'/Did you ever sing just cause there's a song." On a lighter side is "Salsa," about how much companionship a dog brings.
Band leader, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Anya Hinkle brings the authentic mountain sound of her native southwestern Virginia augmented by a world traveler's perspective. Her counterpoint is fellow songwriter, vocalist bassist and harmonicist Greg "Stig" Stiglets. The two harmonize well and alternate on lead vocals. Hinkle wrote five of the nine, Stiglets three, and together they co-wrote one. The quartet is rounded out by Aaron Ballance (Dobro, lap steel, pedal steel) and Jed Willis (mandolin, clawhammer banjo, electric guitar).
The linchpin song is "Ballad of Zona Abston," a coal country song that may remind you a bit of "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore" at a faster tempo. This one is based on a conversation Hinkle had with Tennessee mining resident Abston about her lifelong struggles with poverty and sexism. Toward the end of song, the narrator Abston speaks of remaining on the mountain even though the mining is all done with these words - "And flying ain't as easy if it's pennies that your counting/While the company men are off living like kings." Other highlights include the brisk bluegrass Hinkle tune "West of the Cumberlands" and her rather contemplative closer "Like November."
Hinkle is a terrific vocalist in the mold of Gillian Welch, and she has strong support from each talented player. Tellico impresses, as they mine both tradition and contemporary.