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Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

S&M Communion Bread – 2005 (Funzalo)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

It's been virtually obligatory for the last few years of mentioning within the first three sentences of any review of her work that, yes, Stacey Earle is the sister of Steve Earle, but this latest release with husband Mark Stuart continues to embellish her reputation as a distinctive and remarkable artist in her own right. Part of her charm - and she is nearly irresistible - is that she's almost impossible to pin any one label on. Alt.-country, straight-up-hard-core-country, folk, singer-songwriter, Americana - all of these and more hit the mark at one point or another in her catalog.

Describing Earle's lyrics and vocals as "quirky" may not strike some as particularly positive, but it's the best available word for writing, phrasing and delivery not found in any A & R stylebook, yet completely captivating on songs like "Up In Annie's Room," "Around The Back" and "Oh, Well."

And Stuart, for his part, is far from a hanger-on or an afterthought. He's a compelling vocal and songwriting partner, and his instrumental tribute to Merle Travis ("Walkin' With Travis") makes for a refreshing change of pace. It may not ever become common to refer to Steve as "Stacey's brother," but she's well out of his shadow at this point. (Box 35880, Tucson, AZ 85740)