This is a beautiful recording. It’s not really bluegrass, not really folk, it’s just flat out beautiful. This collection of 14 tunes is a wonderful combination of folk songs, traditional instrumentals, some well-known contemporary songs, and a few surprises. The musicianship is virtuosic, the vocals warm, harmonies lush, and the approach innovative.
Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein’s collaboration goes back to 1992 when, along with Mike Aldridge and T.
Michael Coleman, they formed the group Chesapeake. After several years and three successful albums on the Sugar Hill label, Jimmy and Moondi went their separate ways only to reunite several years later as a duo. As musicians, these guys got the goods. Jimmy has played with the Country Gentlemen, JD Crowe and the New South, the Tony Rice Unit and Spectrum (with Bela Fleck). Moondi was a founding member of Rock Creek before replacing John Starling as lead singer of the Seldom Scene.
The disc starts off with “Bending Blades,” a Tim O’Brien tune from the Hot Rize Take it Home album. Also by Tim O’Brien is “Rod McNeil,” a touching song about “a big man with a bigger heart.” Rod was benefactor of bluegrass music and musicians and for many years the man behind Pennsylvania’s Elizabeth Moose Lodge.
A medley consisting of “Whiskey before Breakfast” and “Red Haired Boy” is performed on guitar and octave mandolin with some contrapuntal interplay between harmony and melody. Rather than the traditional bluegrass chop rhythm, Mr. Gaudreau favors a guitar type strumming pattern, which lends a slightly modal quality to this version of the tune. There is also a nice rendition of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” with Mr. Klein switching off on octave mandolin while Mr. Gaudreau plays mandola.
The title track “Home from the Mills” recounts the small village tradition and working ethic of the local people at the textile mill. Lyrics and melody are interwoven with a subtle three part harmony. Some of the other well-known tunes include Eric Andersen’s “Close the Door Lightly When You Go,” “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot and Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.” Three amazing tunes by 3 master songwriters, all done here with nice grooves, vocals and solo work.
One of my favorite songs on the disc is “I’d Rather Live by the Side of the Road” by Albert E. Brumley, composer of some 800 songs including other classics like “I’ll Fly Away.” This gem of a tune brings a slightly gospel, bluegrass feel reminiscent of the sound of the 1930’s.
“I’d Rather Live By The Side Of The Road”
“Enferment Les Yeux,” an acoustic interpretation of an aria from Jules Massenet’s opera Manon is performed in French with harmony vocals sung by Mr. Klein’s daughter Lauren. While unusual, this choice is not surprising when you consider Mr. Klein’s classical training and early experience as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s chorus. Lauren, by the way, contributes background harmonies on several tunes and beautifully complements the duo’s vocal performance.
Also a surprise is “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” another tune from the 1930’s made famous by Fats Waller among many others. This tune swings with a tasty guitar and mandolin solos and provides a nice contrast to the other musical styles on the disc. Hints of bluegrass bring it all together as a fitting finale to a wonderful compilation.
Overall, this album was a great discovery and I find myself listening to it again and again. Recommended.