“Release Your Shrouds”
Lindsay Lou’s new production with The Flatbellys appears to have been born and bred in Michigan, but comes via PR with a local area code, so we’re just gonna have to own up to it, which after a listen, isn’t a bad thing at all.
The recording hits the ground running with “Hat’s Off”, a fun romp for sure. Lindsay Lou is featured on guitar, claw-hammer banjo as well as vocals. Lindsay’s other half, Joshua Rilko is the foundation and is heard on mandolin, lead and harmony vocals as well as writing. Not quite sure if Joshua does all the writing on the disc, but if he does, his work is as brilliant as Lindsay’s vocal work.
The arrangements of the supporting players on each tune are perfectly constructed to all and each of her syllables to shine. The sophistication of the work on bass by Spencer Cain is brilliant, but he also takes up vocal work on the third track. Mark Lavengood’s Dobro or resophonic guitar more than allows for Lou’s tasty vocal style to weave effortlessly throughout the tracks. Keith Billik rounds out the groups arrangements on banjo and vocals. Andy Wilson is featured on trumpet.
Bluegrass is a bit of simplistic label for this work, it’s the frame work, for sure, but there are so many American influenced works contained in the tracks it almost seems limiting. There are jazz influenced pieces as well as classical frameworks that tunes are hung on, which allows a versatility within, this is not one of the seamless bluegrass pieces, there’s much to study in the work.
There are shades of Billy Holiday as well as the Manhattan Transfer with their vocal arrangements, which would not happen if there were not top notch players setting rhythms that beat effortlessly. Timing is the final member of this ensemble, which is the bottom line for the tracks. It is essential to this work and allows the vocalist to effortlessly shine.
The third track is straight out of Dixieland and by the fourth track, the group flexes out of shades of blue grass with a lovely ballad that is defined by pure musicianship. “Pass Me The Whiskey” the fifth track jumps back into grass, but it’s not quite as blue as the previous. The mandolin, Dobro, banjo and guitar scream their influence, but the vocal and arrangement also show another shade of blue.
“Wonderful You Are”, may be my favorite cut on the project as it takes aspects of the instrumentation it is known for, but make no mistake, this comes out of a jazz pocket. The bass work alone is worth jumping up and down about, but again Lindsay’s vocal shines on this track. Good stuff contained within, with a very sparse arrangement. There is a virtuosity these players have honed that can not be denied and their arrangements and writing is cracking good.
All in all Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys is a great recording, production and fun to listen to. This group is out there in the heartland supporting this recording and I would bet big money there will be more projects to follow this one. The country is poised and excepting now of this musical tradition, which is excellently executed, but more importantly it has a soul with a sense of humor.
[Christopher Brant Anderson ]