Blue Road Records
Cindy G is a songwriter, singer, and mandolinist from central New Jersey who calls what she does “bluegrass with a twist.” But TheRoad is really a fairly straightforward bluegrass album that eschews most of the standards, with the exception of respectful versions of “Wayfaring Stranger” and that classic of Americana ambiguity, Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe.” In their place are nine originals, plus Betty Jean Robinson’s gospel song, “Key To The Kingdom.”
So the focus on G’s album (the songwriting credits reveal her full name is Cindy Giejda) end up being on the strength of her songs. Despite the predominating emphasis on heartbreak stories from first- and third-person perspectives, she manages to avoid predictability, concealing a surprise ending in “Jenny & Jesse.” Songs like “Pennsylvania Hold” and “The Distance” suffer a bit from a few too many words crammed into the melody at times. But story-songs seem to be a strength of hers, and she tells a touching story of a cherished friendship in a song with the unlikely title of “444 Chicken Bone Road.” She’s a forceful and confident singer, one who occasionally phrases a bit stiffly, as on the CD’s opening track “Heartache, Let Me Be.” But she gets plenty of opportunity to cut loose with some vocal flourishes, and she gets very solid support from a roster of supporting pickers, including Jim Heffernan on resonator guitar, banjoist Tommy Stevenson, guitarist/mandolinist Ron Hall, and fiddler Gary Oleyar, and the latter two musicians also contribute some solid harmony vocals.
Her mandolin playing, which gets a bit more display time on her instrumental composition “Humphrey’s Wheel,” is solid if not spectacular, which brings us back to The Road being primarily about the songs. Don’t be unnerved by Cindy G’s “twist.” Check out this album if you’re interested in a new and different songwriting voice. (Blue Road Records, 310 West Farms Rd., Farmingdale, NJ 07727, www.cindygbluegrass.com.)HK