Black Music Matters Festival

Laurie Lewis

The Golden West – 2006 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Tim FitzPatrick

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Laurie Lewis has always been good at adding her own twist to the familiar. This knack is immediately apparent in the opening "Your Eyes" in which we hear bluegrass fiddle and banjo rolls underneath phases such as "Svengali" and "luminous orbs."

Lewis shares lead singing with longtime collaborator Tom Rozum and guitarist Scott Huffman. The three voices combine with particularly good effect on through Kate Campbell's "Bury Me in Bluegrass." Linda Ronstadt lends her voice to the wistful "A Hand to Hold" and brings a credible edge to the tenor part on "Rank Stranger."

Rounding out the "Right Hands" are Todd Phillips and Craig Smith. Phillips' bass playing provides a steady anchor. Smith has a distinctively sparse banjo style, which serves the band well. While much of the instrumentation is understated, the ensemble cooks on the Bill Monroe instrumental "The Golden West" and has fun with the bouncy "Before the Sun Goes Down."

From the raucous "99 Year Blues" to Rozum and Lewis' graceful duet of John Hartford's Goodbye Waltz, the project provides a pleasant mix of originals, classics and contemporary covers.