A Heart Never Knows, the first full release from The Price Sisters on Rebel Records, is an exceptionally entertaining CD, an apt follow-up to their well-received 2016 EP, The Price Sisters.
Lauren and Leanna Price are twins in their early 20s who grew up near the Ohio River Valley town of Sardis, down in the steep hills of Southeast Ohio, an area that is culturally and topographically more akin to the mountains of West Virginia than to most of the Buckeye state.
As eight year olds Lauren and Leanna fell in love with the old-time country music in the O Brother soundtrack and started playing mandolin and fiddle. Over time they developed a particular affinity for Bluegrass music, especially the early recordings of Bill Monroe. After high school they left Ohio to attend college, first in West Virginia for a spell and then in Kentucky, where they earned degrees in traditional music at Morehead State University.
The Price Sisters are exceptional musicians and singers whose music is dependably traditional, but doesn’t seem the least bit hidebound. There’s plenty of straight-ahead, no-nonsense liveliness in their rendition of Monroe’s “The Lee Wedding Tune.” Listen to Lauren’s mandolin in that tune or in the breaks in their songs, and you will note the influences of solid Monroe-style pickers like Mike Compton and David McLaughlin. Leanna’s confident fiddle solos have all the right double-stops, slides and flatted thirds in just the right places, especially on the title track, “A Heart Never Knows.”
"Dark & Stormy Weather"
The Price Sisters sing beautifully, with close harmonies and the sort of matched-set inflection that sibling singers develop so well. On many of their songs, the choruses are nicely enhanced with a baritone part by Ruth McLain or Alan Bartram.
The sisters don’t just pay homage to tradition. While there are strong versions of old songs from the Carter Family, Bill Harrell and the Delmore Brothers, the album has plenty of newer material, as well. Particularly good are the country songs “If I’m Gonna Be Lonely,” the Twangtown Paramours’ haunting “Widow of the Mountain,” and Bill Castle’s “God’s Beautiful Hills.”
For me, the strongest song on a new CD is the one I replay a few times before moving on through the rest of them, and on this release it was the sisters’ take on A.P. Carter’s “Dark and Stormy Weather,” in which they combine some downright lonesome duet singing with confident traditional instrumental breaks that are deceptively simple, but right on the money.
Lauren and Leanna are accompanied on this recording by a number of great instrumentalists, including Bryan Sutton on guitar, Charlie Cushman on banjo, Mike Bub and Dennis Crouch on bass, Justin Moses on Dobro, and Gary Tussing on cello. Their breaks and backgrounds complement the sisters’ songs perfectly.
The only thing I have found missing on this CD is a hard-driving instrumental that really showcases their abilities as players. For that you could Google “Price Sisters CD Release Party Youtube” and listen to some breakdowns. Better still, though, you could catch them in a live appearance with their very talented performing band, which includes Daxson Lewis on banjo, Scott Napier on guitar and Ruth McLain on bass.
Peach Hampton played Bluegrass mandolin in a couple of Ohio-based bands in the 1970s before settling down to more lucrative endeavors. He’s now a retired lawyer living in Western Massachusetts, back to playing more music.
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