This may be one of the shortest reviews to appear recently on this site but this EP is simply stunning. Ok, so I really can’t stop there because The Foreign Landers deserve so much more.
First a bit of background on the artists. David and Tabitha Benedict come from varied backgrounds, David from South Carolina and Tabitha from County Armugh, Northern Ireland. Many of you will know David from his work with Mile Twelve, the Boston based bluegrass band and Tabitha Agnew, from Cup O’Joe and Midnight Skyracer. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Cup O’Joe but in listening to a few cuts on Youtube, I’m a fan and clearly they got the goods. Now married and living in the US, Put All Your Troubles Away is their first project together, a result of work they did during the pandemic lockdown in Northern Ireland.
The EP begins with a re-imagined version of Gordon Lightfoot’s, “I’m not Saying.” As they explain on their website, this version came about as a remembrance to Tony Rice, who famously recorded a wonderful version of this classic in his collaboration with Norman Blake. This version is performed on guitar, sweetly sung by Tabitha, accompanied by David’s cross picking mandolin and beautiful solo work.
“The Leaves So Green,” a traditional lyric from Northern Ireland’s Sam Henry collection has been re-worked with new music. The duo’s virtuosity is on display in “Finn’s Rescue,” an instrumental featuring Tabitha on banjo and David on mandolin. Other originals include “Song for Riddle” and a beautiful ballad “Knowing You,” highlighting David and Tabitha’s wonderful harmonies.
The last tune of the collection performed on banjo and mandolin is John Hartford’s “Put All Your Troubles Away.” This tune originally appeared on the disc Hartford & Hartford, recorded in a bluegrass style by Mr. Hartford with his son Jamie, in the Foreign Landers’ uplifting version you can almost hear John’s flatfooting in the background.
This is a exceptional debut EP by this Trans-Atlantic folk duo and is available for download at Bandcamp. Do yourself a favor and get it. Highly recommended.