Gawd, but I love Spring! You can smell life and you can see the grass grow. Better than that, you can hear the 'grass! Every Spring, bands line up for the myriad of summer music festivals, peppering the public with new music in the form of new albums. New, new, new! It's like Christmas! There is the new Paul Curreri to look forward to, a new Devon Sproule, and word has it that a new Dixie Bee-Liners will hit the Net soon. Life is good!
And even better now that Beth Stevens & Edge is hitting the circuit (they're called Edge because they are on the edge of a host of acoustic genres, sound-wise). Beth herself is no newcomer to the scene, having played with The Stevens Family and then with sister April as the Stevens Sisters, but she's on the Edge now (get it?) and ready to bring her music to the people.
As a songwriter, Stevens shines and it is evident on the band's latest album, Strong Enough. She wrote or co-wrote six of the tunes, to my ears as good or better than those also included, and we're talking songs written by Tim Krekel & Kim Richey (songwriters extraordinaire), Tom T. & Dixie Hall, and Bill Monroe & Robert Van Winkle. In fact, the one song she wrote alone (New Home) is one of the best vocal bluegrass tracks I've heard lately—smooth with great harmonies and a chorus with major hook.
Three part harmonies are a way of life with Edge, Stevens' high country female voice taking point on all but a couple of songs, the honeyed male harmonics blending superbly. There is something about bluegrass harmonies that capture the ear and the soul and Edge has it down.
They evidently don't have a mandolin player, so they brought in ringer Jesse Cobb who nailed all of his parts and smoked when the part warranted. A name to watch. Dobro player Matt Leadbetter is a step above most out there, with a touch just enough off the formula to make your ears take note and while Scott Vestal only plays banjo on two tracks, his work with wife Alice on the ASV album Goin' To the Dance makes him magic, in my book.
The musicianship on Strong Enough, in fact, is topnotch and though I don't think Beth Stevens & Edge will be making it to my neck of the woods (the Left Coast) this summer, it doesn't stop me from drooling. If they show, so will I. If they don't, I can take solace in the CD I've had close to the player since it arrived. I'll just open my windows, crank it up and pretend.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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