Black Music Matters Festival

Laurie Lewis

Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals – 1999 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

The father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, compared playing bluegrass to playing baseball. It is a total team sport. When a band is functioning as a "team," it is musical magic. With this, Laurie Lewis has put together quite a fine bluegrass team. From the first cut, "Tall Pines," it is obvious this is veteran team, and they thoroughly enjoy pickin' with each other.

Banjo player Craig Smith shows throughout why he is on the short list in demand for studio work. His pedal steel style banjo licks on the Jimmy Martin/Paul Williams tune, "Stepping Stones," are just short of amazing. Lewis' long-time friend Tom Rozum is on mandolin, Mary Gibbons on guitar and Grammy winning bass player Todd Phillips rounds out the group.

Ever present is Lewis' strong lead vocals and wonderful fiddle playing. She shows she can really "drive" the music on breakneck tunes such as "Blow, Big Wind" and "Hard Luck and Trouble," but can also sing with great beauty and emotion on Jean Ritchie's "Black Waters" and the self penned a cappella tune "The Wood Thrushes Song." This project is packed with good tunes, good pickin', and good friends. Bottom line, that makes for a great bluegrass team and musical magic.