ROGER KNOTT – Echoes In Time (Leg Room Records LEGCD116)

Echoes In TimeEchoes In Time is a slightly curious but very enjoyable blend of Englishness and Americana. All the instruments on Roger Knott’s ninth album (or possibly his thirteenth) were recorded by producer Thomm Jutz in Nashville while the vocals were recorded by Roger in England, which is where he lives. He is pigeon-holed as “country” but that seems rather restrictive. True, there’s fiddle, banjo and Dobro on the album, courtesy of Justin Moses but there is also accordion by Jeff Taylor.

Half the songs are written by Roger with the rest written or co-written by Gordon Irvine, about whom I know nothing. The opener, ‘Bridge’, has a very British-sounding lyric but Roger then moves on to Irvine’s civil war song, ‘Corduroy Road’ which is as country as you like. Before you ask, this is neither the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song nor the one done by Heart being more literal and less metaphorical than either. It’s also a very good song.

Having established the parameters of his music, Roger mixes the two styles very effectively. ‘Echoes In Time’ is “seasons” song and the line about bluebells changing into sleigh-bells is saved only by the one about a child growing to begin “human racing”. ‘Drop Of Whisky’ is another of Irvine’s but less obviously country with Thomm Jutz’ guitar paired with the accordion.

The album returns several times to the theme of time’s passage. ‘Turn Back The Clocks’ is full of regret and thoughts we’ve all experienced while ‘Dig Infinity’ considers the process of evolution. ‘Evening Song’ looks forward and ‘Halfway There’ laments that our time is always too short. Isn’t that true?

Dai Jeffries

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In AmericaIt’s difficult to write about In America, the latest album by Virginia-born singer Cathryn Craig and the British guitarist Brian Willoughby without sounding like a fan girl to the nth degree.

Many a night I’ve been in that state somewhere between awake and asleep with Craig’s rhapsodic vocals accompanied by Willoughby’s masterfully emotional playing coursing through my mind. I can only imagine that the duo is among the rare musicians that envelope themselves in their music, much as the Frank Sinatra embodied the lyrics, which he sang.

Although Mr. Willoughby and Ms. Craig have each extensively worked with A-list artists ranging from The Strawbs to Nanci Griffith and Chet Atkins, their work is as individual as their duo. Consider the album’s title track on which Ms. Craig’s voice takes on a rare ethereal quality that puts me in mind of the haunting vocals of the late Mary Travers of Peter Paul & Mary on such songs as “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.” Yes, it’s that haunting.

And the beauty of her voice combined with Willoughby’s guitar mastery never falters as the duo works through a host of poignant songs including ‘These Old Stone Walls,” and “Whatever Is For You,” both ruminations on our lives’ journeys.

Joining the duo are a host of luminary musicians including Jeff Taylor (Vince Gill/Time Jumpers), Fran Breen (Waterboys, Saw Doctors), Dennis Bryon (Amen Corner/Bee Gees), Pat McInerney (Nanci Griffith, Doc Watson), Brent Moyer (Lynn Anderson), Andy Reiss (Reba McEntire/Time Jumpers), Ron de la Vega (Nanci Griffith), and Richard Bailey (Steeldrivers).

As you’d expect, the playing is superb and elegantly woven among the duo’s work thanks to engineer/producer Thomm Jutz.

Perhaps the superlatives in this review do put me in super fan territory but one listen to the new album by rare artists that infuse their music with heartfelt spirituality and you’ll be one, too.

Nancy Dunham

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