Review: Red Molly – Love and Other Tragedies

Recorded four years after their serendipitous meeting around a campfire at the 2004 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Love and Other Tragedies offers a southern sound that belies Red Molly’s New York roots. When you cue up this album (their second, but first studio release), don’t expect a pure bluegrass sound–but don’t worry either. This CD takes bluegrass to another level. And, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

A less than average tasting beer ad once featured a pair of people arguing, “Tastes great! No! Less filling!” Instead of offering a standard of excellence, Love and Other Tragedies might suggest, “Great singing! No! Hot picking!” Red Molly proves you can have your beer and drink it too. In addition to the overall quality of the sound, perhaps what I most appreciate is that the recording shape shifts between genres blues, folk, bluegrass and swing–and sometimes within the same song! A case in point is “Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia,” which swings into a bluesy riff and back again into a swing groove.

This trio’s voices were simply made for each other as they rise and float amongst the background fills. At the time of its recording, Red Molly included multi-instrumentalists Laurie McAllister (banjo, guitar, vocals), Abbie Gardner (guitar, dobro, vocals), and Carolann Solebello (guitar, mandolin, bass, vocals). In the meantime, however, Carolann has stepped aside to pursue a family; in her place a new Molly–actually named Molly Venter–has filled in.

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“Is The Moon Still Shining”

This album includes some songs familiar to the bluegrass repertoire: “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning,” and “Wayfaring Stranger.” “Is the Blue Moon Still Shining?” written by Missy Monroe, tips its hat to Bill Monroe’s most famous blue moon, “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” which borrowed by Elvis Presley, put bluegrass on the map and became one of Elvis’ early rock and roll hits. However, Abby and Laurie also write some great tunes. Abbie’s “The Mind of a Soldier” won the 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Folk category. And, I love her growly dobro stylings on the bluesy “Honey on My Grave.” That song, as well as Laurie’s “Beaumont Rest Stop” were both featured in Sing Out! Magazine.

If the trio’s outstanding vocals and Abbey’s dobro playing weren’t enough, the album is supported by guest artists such as fiddler Jake Amerding and Duke Levine on mandola, lap steel, and electric guitar.

Ok. You all know me and I’m partial to the sliding sound of the dobro. But I swear there’s a lot more to like here than Abbie’s sliding sound, which is front and center throughout.

With so many favorites I’m loathe to single any one out, it’s no wonder that Love and Other Tragedies enjoyed ten weeks in Americana’s Top 15 and in July 2008 entered the Folk DJ Top Albums chart at #1.

All thumbs up!

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