There are just six songs on this new recording from Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike.
All of them (and six others scheduled for release later in the year) were recorded in Owensboro at the International Bluegrass Music Museum and were produced by Becky Buller, who also added two songs and her fiddling and harmony vocals to the project.
Why just six? That’s anyone’s guess. It would have been nice to have a few extra tracks, but we take what we’re given. In this case, what we’re given includes the fast songs, “Blame It On The Bluegrass” and “Four Leaf Clover” (not the one you think), three of a medium tempo, including “No Vacancy” and Buller’s lilting and positive gospel tune “A Good Day, Lord,” and but one slow number, a genuine country weeper called “Slow Healing Heart.” “Blame It On The Bluegrass” (number 12 on this month’s top thirty song chart), has a quick, churning pace, catch phrase, and its tales of the perils of listening to this kind of music.
The better song, however, is “Slow Healing Heart.” To it Smith brings all of her considerable vocal talents and gives it an almost gospel-style reading full of nuance, bends and emotion. It is easily the standout vocal performance on the recording and might even be considered the recording’s highlight track were it not for “No Vacancy,” a Merle Travis tune driven by fingerpicked guitar (played by Ernie Evans) and an infectious, swinging beat guaranteed to lift the spirits. Moreover, you get a history lesson each time you hear it. Travis wrote the tune in 1946 at a time when there was a severe housing shortage in the U.S. following the World War II. So there you go. Live and learn. And enjoy.
Also appearing along with Smith, Buller, and Evans are bassists Kraig Smith and Rebekah Long and vocalist Ben Speer. (Bell Buckle Records, P.O. Box 142, Bell Buckle TN 37020 www.bellbucklerecords.com.) BW