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Monday, May 31, 2010

Nora Jane Struthers - Nora Jane Struthers

Nora Jane Struthers - Nora Jane Struthers
2010, Blue Pig Music

A born Jersey girl (but nothing like the currently popular caricature), Nora Jane Struthers could yodel before she could talk. Growing up in a house where music was a part of everyday life, Struthers was playing bluegrass music duo with her father by the time she was a teenager. Struthers travelled the East Coast as teen, attending bluegrass festivals and fiddlers conventions, falling in love with traditional music along the way. Now on her own and living in Nashville, Struthers will release her solo debut album, Nora Jane Struthers, on June 22, 2010. Coming on the heels of a top-ten finalist placing at the 2009 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and 1st placement in the neo-traditional category at the 2009 at the Appalachian String Band Festival, Struthers carries a great deal of momentum into her debut album.

Struthers opens with "Willie", which starts out as if an idyllic love song but turns sour on an unaccepted proposal. The song turns to tragedy quickly, and does so in stark yet poetic terms. "Mockingbird" is a classic story song steeped in allegory, not to mention some of the best instrumental work Nashville has to offer. Struthers is no slouch either; you could imagine her voice coming right out of the Grand Ol' Opry a generation or two ago like she'd been there all along. "Look Out On The Mountain" is a dark tale where a mother reassures a child on the whereabouts of her Daddy, although it's unclear where mama believes a word, and in the end that doubt proves correct. The song is wonderful textured with conflicting emotions and dark undertones.

Struthers details the downfall of the Blue Ridge Mountains in "The Blight". The story is told from the standpoint of someone who played among those trees in her youth; and in spite of any recovery that's been made the Mountains, and the lives of those who live there, will never be the same. With "Evelyn", Struthers tells the story of a hard working man and his former socialite wife back in colonial days. The song is told from the perspective of the man who sees how coming west with him and the hardships they've lived through has drained her of who she once was. It's a somewhat sorrowful yet practical tune, charming in its honesty.

Struthers lets go with a classic cowgirl song in the form of "Cowgirl Yodel #3", sounding like a mix of country and vaudeville in the process. The violin and accordion play here are nothing short of amazing, and the arrangement in general is inspired. "Build You A House" is a proposal in song from a man who has nothing to offer except his name and the work of his hands. He tells her how beautiful she is and how he knows there are others out there who can offer her more, but is brave enough to ask for her hand anyway. Struthers seems to have a talent for writing/selecting these anachronistic love songs that perhaps don't fit today's standard for romance, but were likely the height of it in another era. This is a brilliant tune, and Struthers' reading of it is nothing less.

"One Notch Tighter" sounds like it may have been a depression-era tune, but is perhaps apropos for today as well. It's about doing the things you need to do to get through hard times. The musicianship here is exquisite, and the song is something of an anthem for self-reliance. Struthers closes with "Say Darlin' Say", yet another love song involving a proposal, but this time perhaps from a less desirable sort. It's a pretty tune, particularly once the vocal harmonies kick in; a solid closer.

Nora Jane Struthers brings a classic country voice and a deft touch to the dozen songs presented on Nora Jane Struthers. It's a traditional country album in the strictest terms. You won't hear any of these songs on commercial country radio, but the roots crowd should embrace Struthers with great enthusiasm. The album is highly entertaining, and Struthers herself will charm your socks off with a voice that's pure gold.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Nora Jane Struthers at or Nora Jane Struthers drops on June 22, 2010. You can preorder the CD from Amazon. Expect wide availability on both CD and as a download.

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