Catie Curtis has been a fan favorite on the acoustic music scene for a number of years now. Her well-deserved reputation as one of our very best singer/songwriters has followed her through nine critically-acclaimed recordings. With her tenth and newest project, Hello Stranger, released in August 2009, she gifts her loyal fan base and entices new listeners with a recording that captures some of the magic of her live performances.
For many years ace mandolin player Jimmy Ryan accompanied Curtis on her live tours. And guitarist extraordinaire Kevin Barry has been on the road with her as well. Curtis had an idea that a string-based sound could showcase some of her most requested songs, as well as some of her favorite covers. With the help of her Nashville-based record label, Compass Records, she selected a few of Nashville's best musicians to make an album featuring fiddle, mandolin and banjo as well as acoustic guitar.
The opening cut, Curtis classic 100 Miles, shines in the hands of Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Alison Brown on banjo. But it is Richard Thompson's Walking on a Wire that receives an absolutely touching and brilliant interpretation by Curtis, as her voice soars and breaks into the high soprano reaches of her range.
I am an easy mark for classic country tunes like Hello Stranger, the duet performed by Curtis with an impressive performance by Mary Gauthier. It is one of the CD's best cuts. And, speaking of classics, Curtis does the early Cat Stevens hit Tuesday's Dead proud with a charm that is infectious. Who would think that banjo and fiddle would bring out the best in a Cat Stevens song? The sound is refreshing and fun.
Don White is one of the funniest songwriters performing today. His reverse role-playing song, Be Sixteen with Me, where the adults act like teenagers and the teenagers act like adults, is one that Curtis makes her own. The all strings production of this song is near perfect, with an outstanding resophonic guitar followed by a fiddle solo at the song's middle and end. You will be humming this one for days after your first listen.
Dad's Yard has got to be Curtis's most requested song, and it is beautifully rendered here with the help of Darrell Scott on backing vocals. Two songs from Curtis's stellar 2004 recording, Dreaming in Romance Languages, close out the CD. Deliver Me delivers an exceptional banjo accompaniment, and Saint Lucy lends its dreamlike lyrics to a country string band with style to spare.
Kudos goes to Catie Curtis and her producer, Garry West, for putting a fresh spin on some of Curtis's best-loved songs as well as several handpicked classics. The supporting musicians, Alison Brown and Stuart Duncan, along with Gary Marinelli (acoustic guitars, mandolin and resophonic guitar), Kenny Malone (drums and percussion) and Todd Phillips (acoustic bass) deliver these tunes with a pop, sizzle and shine. But most of all, the music is fun to listen to again and again. Country meets Catie in style!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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