Spiritone Records – 2015
12 tracks; 43 minutes
This is Wisconsin-based vocalist Mare Edstrom’s tenth CD though she is a new name to this reviewer. Mare apparently made her reputation with rocking barrelhouse blues but here she adopts an acoustic approach with plenty of fiddle, dobro and banjo. Mare sings lead on all tracks, supported by Jared Furnish on vocals, Kenn Fox on guitar, Ruthie Krause on fiddle, Garrett Waite on bass, Jon Peik on banjo and Lil’ Rev on harp and mandolin. Several of the band add backing vocals and the album was produced by Kenn Fox in Watertown, Wisconsin. The material comes from a wide range of traditional sources as well as blues icons such as Blind Boy Fuller and Robert Johnson.
The album opens with a sparse arrangement of “Trouble In Mind” with the fiddle to the fore which unfortunately exposes some of Mare’s limitations as a vocalist. Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” fares better with the familiar stop/start rhythm played on slide dobro and Mare well supported by harmony vocals. The traditional “Hesitation Blues” is a frequently covered song and one harks back to versions such as Hot Tuna’s for comparison; this version does OK with some very nice finger-picking at the start, Mare’s vocals are good and it’s one of the stronger tracks. The ballad “Something ‘bout You” suits Mare’s high-pitched voice well with the keening fiddle a very suitable accompaniment; not blues, but a pleasant listen. Laughter opens the band’s version of RJ’s “Ramblin’” but there is not much to laugh about with this version which did not appeal to these ears at all. “Roll On Buddy” is a traditional country blues with restrained fiddle and references to the more familiar tale of John Henry; Blind Boy Fuller’s “Pistol Slapper Blues” sounds under-recorded with Mare’s vocals distant in the mix behind the guitar and harp. Towards the end of the CD the band tackles two songs that are personal favourites of this reviewer: “Mercury Blues” (erroneously credited to Delbert McClinton) is played at a funereal pace which drags the song; Dylan’s “Buckets Of Rain” fares better, played at a pace that matches the original and Mare’s vocals are OK as she duets with a male voice (one assumes Jared) over harp, mandolin and guitar work.
Not knowing anything about Mare’s other discs it is difficult to rate this one against her usual fare. Fans of the band may like this change of pace and those who enjoy acoustic and country blues may find something to enjoy here.