Up from Mississippi, now working out of Asheville, N.C., Grits & Soul is the duo of Anne Kline and John Looney. Though she plays guitar, Kline here appears only as a singer, although to say “only” in any context about her singing is a mistake. She can sing, no doubt about it. Growling, slurring, soaring, swooping, note-bending, word-bending, and a strong vibrato, they’re all part of her power-packed technique. Looney, on the other hand, sings a lead or two, but is primarily an instrumentalist, playing mandolin and guitar. “Blue Friday” and the instrumental “Carolina Fox Chase” give him a chance to stretch out a bit and show off his chops. Filling out the band are a group of solid pickers, the most recognizable being fiddler Nicky Sanders and banjoist Kyle Tuttle.
This 11-song (all originals) CD is their debut and a very good one at that. Bluegrass tunes such as “Lights On The Mountain,” which has a decidedly ’70s-style about it, and “Blue Friday,” with it’s wailing, energetic tale of getting in and out of a questionable romance, stand beside fine honky-tonk tunes such as “Listen Here, Darlin’” and “Just Say The Word” and the heavily blues and gospel-influenced sound of the title tune and the vocals-only trio of “Carry Me Away.”
At the outset is “Marretta Jeane,” a tune who’s percolating, slightly old-time rhythm and Carter Family-tinged lilt mask a sordid tale of murder and love. Sordid or not, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the excellent tune, the tale, and the performance. So too is the slow, 3/4 country saga of an illicit romance and its resulting “Guilty Conscience.” Again, the tune, the tale, and the performance are intriguing and enveloping. But then, you could say the same thing about much of this debut recording. (Grits & Soul, 64 Elkmont Dr., Asheville, NC 28804, www.gritsandsoul.com.)BW