Two Reviews: Antique Persuasion (Two Albums)

I’ve had Antique Persuasion’s Don’t Forget Me Little Darling – Remembering the Carter Family sitting on my desk awaiting review since the mid-summer (sorry I forgot you, little darling!). I’m just now getting to this review, and during the interim, this fine band of Nashville musicians were keeping plenty busy themselves – they put out a second recording this year in the form of a concise Christmas EP, Christmas Time’s A-Coming.

So this review is a special holiday 2-fer of sorts, covering Antique Persuasion’s recorded output for 2015. The two recordings make a nice pairing. In fact the cover art for both CD’s is basically the same, with the three members of Antique Persuasion sitting on a couch with their instruments. The Carter Family is silhouetted behind them on Don’t Forget Me Little Darling and there is a wreath behind them on Christmas Time’s A-Coming. Perhaps the recordings came from the same sessions? Both were produced and mixed by Nashville producer Jimmy Metts. Whatever the circumstance, it’s great music, well performed and both would make a nice gift for yourself or any Country or Bluegrass music fan you know.

Don’t Forget Me Little Darling – Remembering the Carter Family

“Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” leads off the album with an a capella statement from the three members of Antique Persuasion, weaving their vocal harmonies in a fashion that would do the Carter Family proud. From that moment on, one gets the sense that these young musicians are serious about representing the music of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, bringing the defining American folk trio into a more contemporary context. Even the name of the band itself, Antique Persuasion, is a tribute to A.P. (Alvin Pleasant) Carter.

Although the interplay of instruments and vocal harmonies is a strong aspect of this group’s identity, there are plenty of opportunities for each member of Antique Persuasion to shine and show their own distinct talents (each member sings lead on four songs). Case in point is the track that I found to be one of the standouts on the album, “I’m Thinking of My Blue Eyes.” More moving than the Carter Family original, with soft, pliant rhythm, all of the parts –vocal, mandolin, guitar and fiddle are played by Jenee Fleenor, with a touch of supportive bass by Mark Fain. The warmth and sparkle of the modern recording is a testament to just how far the technology has advanced over the years, but Fleenor really makes this song her own, delivering the lyric with an intimate sense of longing that does justice to the Carter Family original while forging into different emotional territory.

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“I’m Thinking Of My Blue Eyes”

Other notable songs include Brandon Rickman’s (Lonesome River Band ) vocal take on “Lover’s Lane,” a more uptempo Bluegrass-styled number featuring Rickman’s deft guitar and mandolin playing, the swing of “Lonesome For You,” featuring Jenee and Brandon vocal duet in a relaxed, jazz-inflected style, and Brennen Leigh’s sweet rendition of the title track, “Don’t Forget Me Little Darling,” which may be the most reminiscent of the Carter Family, just a simple accompaniment of guitar and bass backing up the stellar harmonies of the three singers. The album ends with a stunning and solemn version of “Dark and Stormy Weather” by Fleenor.

This one’s a keeper!

Christmas Time’s A-Coming

Looking for traditional Christmas tunes in the style of the Carter Family? Look no further.

This new album, Christmas Time’s A-Coming, consists of a half dozen familiar holiday songs, with lead vocals evenly split among the three singers. Arrangements run from bluegrass to mountain ballads and acoustic swing and the EP was recorded at Hilltop Studios by John Nicholson for Voxhall Records.

Do we really need yet another Christmas album? I have to confess that I’m likely to turn the radio off during the holiday season and have been known to walk out of a store when the sentimentality of Christmas music gets to be too much. Yet, there is something very sweet and authentic about Antique Persuasion’s renditions of these familiar holiday songs. The shear earnestness of “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” sung by Brennen Leigh, is enough to melt the heart of the grinchiest among us. I got the feeling that Antique Persuasion’s motivation to record these songs – which tend more to the traditional religious themes over modern novelty – were done more as an act of love and faith than clever marketing to capitalize on the holiday. I would rather hear their renditions of the Christmas carols than 95% of the what’s played on the radio.

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“Beautiful Star of Bethleham”

“Away in a Manger” is a gentle ballad, featuring the groups signature sweet harmonies. You can almost hear the fire crackling in the background! Brandon Rickman takes the lead vocal on a danceable waltz, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” backed by lovely backing vocals and featuring Jenee Fleenor’s soaring fiddle.

The EP ends with a swinging, laconic, relaxed “White Christmas,” with Fleenor stepping out with that jazz-influenced voice. This breezy light-hearted tune is a great closing tune, bringing back sense of simple times and holiday joy.

Both of these CD’s are ones that you will likely want to play again and again and share with others, during the holidays or any ol’ time of the year.

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