Uncle Earl – Two New CDs Reviewed

Uncle Earl: “She Waits for Night.”
Uncle Earl describes itself as “young old-time,” and what I think they mean by that is that it’s a band in the old-time style that does not attempt to recreate earlier sounds precisely, but rather attempts to express the spirit of what’s called “old-time” music without being stylistically bound to any one regional influence. To put it another way, if you mixed Norman Blake’s Rising Fawn String Ensemble with the early 80’s Good Ol’ Persons, and stirred in some blues and gospel and folk, you’d have something like the Uncle Earl sound. It’s not bluegrass- more bounce than drive in the banjo and fiddle- but Uncle Earl is old-time the way some young bluegrass bands take the bluegrass sound beyond Flatt and Scruggs covers.

“Willie Taylor”

Most of the album is fiddle tunes, or songs built around a strong fiddle center, but Uncle Earl sings in sweet gospel harmony on “Divine” and gives us a taste of Delta blues influence on “There is a Time.” Personally, I found the upbeat fiddle numbers more compelling than the a capella or sparsely accompanied songs, but that’s probably because I listened to the album in the car on a road trip- it’s no small compliment to say that Uncle Earl’s energy was great driving music! If you like sweet harmonies and an interesting and skillful interpretaiton of old-time string band music, Uncle Earl is a good bet.

Uncle Earl: Waterloo, Tennessee

“The Last Goodbye”

Uncle Earl has skill and imagination- this is clear. If you’re an Uncle Josh purist, Uncle Earl probably won’t cut it, but if your music includes blues, old-time, and folk influences, Uncle Earl should be part of your musica family. “Waterloo, Tennessee” gets better with repeated listening- recommended.

Neal Loevinger

Neal Loevinger is a hospital chaplain who loves things that start with the letter B, like bluegrass, bourbon, bikes and books. He is the proud father of two kids who may yet learn to appreciate bluegrass like he does.

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