Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby release Real World

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby Real WorldIt’s interesting how all of us keep people in certain slots, no matter how we deny it.

Consider Brian Willoughby, best known for his work with the legendary folk-rock band the Strawbs. Sure, he’s a guitar master who is much in demand as evidenced by his work with Nanci Griffith, Mary Hopkin and many others, obviously including the Strawbs. Still, thinking of him always conjures up Strawbs’ melodies.

What a delight it is to remind ourselves of his fluid versatility. Perhaps nowhere is that clearer than on his just-released album Real World with Cathryn Craig. For those that don’t know, the U.S.-based Craig makes her home in Virginia, not far from Nashville where she used worked with such legendary artists as Chet Atkins and the Righteous Brothers.

Combining Willoughby’s lush, acoustic guitar work with Craig’s emotive vocals truly brings out the best in both artists’ offerings. Think of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell but replace the honky tonk vibe and cowboy with a folk sensibility in the most elegant sense and you have a feeling of what Real World offers.

Consider the opening track of the album “Eastview Lane,” that finds Craig’s vocals — that put one in mind of Griffith herself perhaps mixed with a twang less Emmylou Harris — ruminating about sweet times with dolls, bikes and granddaddy’s old place when as children we “used to be so happy, we really had it all.”

Perhaps the look at life through a panoramic camera sweeping from sweet childhood memories to adults sorrows — such as those told on “Alice’s Song” about a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome and “Cumberland” about the devastating 2010 floods in Nashville — and you have a soundscape that could play behind most of our lives.

Combining Willoughby’s spiritual guitar work and Craig’s poignant vocals reminds all of us that life, for all its dips and curves, truly is as rich as we make it.

By Nancy Dunham

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