You may have heard of Rayna Gellert as an extraordinary old-time fiddler on her first solo CD or with the band Uncle Earl. You might also have seen her play guitar with the Freight Hoppers. In this recording, she makes her mark as a singer and a songwriter, having written five songs and adding five traditional songs. Rayna does fiddle on three selections; she also plays viola and organ on “The Cruel Mother.” She has far too many backup musicians and harmony vocalists to list them all, but I will mention Nathan Salsburg on guitar, who co-arranged with her, Dan Gellert on banjo, Scott Miller, Alice Gerrard, Leah Abramson, Abigail Washburn on harmony vocals, and Kai Welch on piano and trumpet.
The first song, “Nothing,” is about the bizarre way that human brains and memory work or don’t work. “In The Ocean” is an unusual take on unrequited love. “The Platform” is another musing on memory. “The Stars,” which is also out as a music video, continues this theme, as does “Fly To Me.” The traditional pieces include the ribald “1845,” the chilling “The Cruel Mother,” “The Fatal Flower Garden,” “Old Bangum,” and “Lamplighting Time.”
These songs do not fit neatly into a genre, but they are certainly informed by Rayna’s lifelong immersion in traditional music. Rayna has a low-pitched expressive voice, and she has chosen songs which draw on her emotive power. If this description intrigues you, give it a listen. (Redeye Distribution, 449A Trollingwood Rd., Haw River, NC 27258, www.redeyeusa.com.)SAG