Although conveniently filed under NewGrass, there’s more to San Francisco based duo Maria Quiles and Rory Cloud that bluegrass, Shake Me Now, their third album, produced by label founder Alison Brown, evidencing traces of jazz, classical, blues and folk. With Oscar Westesson on upright bass essentially making them a trio, it’s moodily overcast folk that dominates the opening track, ‘Black Sky Lightning’ with its fingerpicked tracery and pulsing bass, getting slightly airier with the strummed love song ‘On My Way Tonight’ before the title track brings it back to calmer, more reflective ground.
The traditional roots are evidenced with covers of both ‘Deep Ellum Blues’, the first on which Cloud’s vocals have equal prominence, and ‘Worried Man Blues’, a folk chestnut popularised by Woody Guthrie. Along with these there’s also a cover of relatively more recent origin, Cloud taking wearied lead on a slow paced interpretation of Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’.
Everything else is original material, ranging in style from the fiddle-backed American roots folksiness of ‘By The Rio Grande’ and the stripped and slow waltzing ‘Hero’s Crown’ to the crooning harmonies of ‘Mississippi River’ and the itchier, swampier blues that drive ‘Feelin’ Good’.
Quiles has a gentle, soothingly engaging voice, and it’s heard to good effect on the a capella harmonising opening to the five minute ‘Faded Flower’ before a lonesome acoustic campfire guitar picks up the spare melody. Closing with a one mic bonus recap of ‘Black Sky Lightning’ that ups the tempo, this is one for the hours as evening draws in and you sit there staring at the vastness of the skies. Front porch optional.
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Artists’ website: www.quilesandcloud.com
‘By The Rio Grande’ – live session: