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Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein

If I Had a Boat – 2014 (Rebel)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein

For those following bluegrass and various other forms of acoustic music for a while, it's astonishing to realize that mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau's history in the music goes back to the 1960s, including associations along the way with the Country Gentlemen, Tony Rice and Robin and Linda Williams - and that's barely scratching the surface of his resume.

Moondi Klein, for his part, spent the early 1990s as guitarist and lead singer for the Seldom Scene, managing nicely to hold his own vocally with the legendary John Duffey. Both were members in the mid-90s (with T. Michael Coleman and the late Mike Auldridge) of Chesapeake, one of those not-quite-bluegrass, not-quite-folk, not-quite-country bands that prompted people to start coming up with labels like "Americana."

Following up on previous Rebel releases "2:10 Train" (2008) and "Home From The Mills" (2012), this is their third collaboration, another collection of instrumental and vocal duets drawn from a wide and eclectic assortment of sources that range from Lyle Lovett (the title song) to Gordon Lightfoot ("Did She Mention My Name") to Jimmie Rodgers ("Treasures Untold") to Bob Dylan ("One More Night")- not to mention traditional chestnuts like "Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies" and "Bury Me Beneath The Willow."

With a handful of exceptions, notably the harmony presence of Klein's daughter, Lauren, on three tracks, it's just the two of them, two voices and two instruments. There's one overdub, on the instrumental "Waltz For Anais" (by Gaudreau), but other than that the production conveys the intimacy of sitting in the parlor listening to a pair of superlative musicians finish one song and say, "Hey, let's try this one." It's hard to pick favorites out of the dozen on this release, but James Taylor's "Bartender's Blues" (a big hit for George Jones) gives them a chance to do some honky tonkin', and it stands out from the rest.

Klein's voice has a soaring and, sometimes, piercing quality that he nonetheless can modulate nicely when the song calls for it, and Gaudreau's softer tenor/high baritone complements it nicely. Gaudreau has been among the mandolin elite. While Klein has not generally received a lot of attention as a picker, it's worth noting that, as on their previous efforts, he shows more as a guitarist than those who know him from his Seldom Scene days probably realized he had. Together, they just seem to have a knack for choosing and recording songs they love, if for no other reason than that they can.