RED TAIL RING – Fall Away Blues (Earthwork Music EW8504)

Fall Away BluesSo you’ve seen the title, Fall Away Blues, and noted that Red Tail Ring are a guitar/fiddle/banjo duo so you know what their album sounds like, right? I thought that, too, but we were both wrong. Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo are from Michigan but their love of old-time music is genuine. Laurel sometimes cultivates a West Virginia accent that comes out on words like “sparrow” but Red Tail Ring’s music has decidedly modern overtones.

The opening title track is written by Laurel and boasts one of those tunes that makes you want to go back to the beginning as soon as it’s finished. Laurel is the duo’s principal songwriter but Fall Away Blues is a real mixture of sources. ‘Wondrous Love’ comes from the Sacred Harp but it’s never sounded like this in church; ‘Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies’ is from the Sharp collection and ‘Gibson Town’ is set to a Muddy Waters’ tune. The song is a response to the 2016 Kalamazoo shootings but has a timeless feel that could place it any time in the last eighty years.

‘Shale Town’ is a totally modern protest against fracking but from the opening lyrics you could place it in the depression of the 1930s. It’s a masterful piece of writing. ‘Yarrow’ is from Child; ‘I’d Rather Be The Devil’ is by Skip James with extra lyrics by Laurel and there is one instrumental set, ‘Camp Meeting On The Fourth Of July/May Day’.

Musically, Red Tail Ring do it all themselves. There are no celebrity guests but there are some overdubs, notably Laurel’s harmony vocals backing her own lead line. Michael’s voice gives a depth and richness to the harmonies and there is a great warmth in the sound that you don’t always find in “pure” old-timey music. Fall Away Blues is really good album.

Dai Jeffries

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