Review: Tara Nevins – Wood and Stone (Sugar Hill, 2011)
Tara Nevins – Wood and Stone (Sugar Hill, 2011)
Nevins’ second solo album (her first since 1999’s Mule to Ride) hangs on to the rootsy underpinnings of her musical day job with Donna the Buffalo, but cuts a looser, more soulful country groove than does her long-time group. Without a co-vocalist sharing the microphone, Nevins’ voice carries the album, and without a second writer, her songs stretch out across all her influences, including fiddle- and steel-lined country, second line rhythms and the Cajun sounds of her earlier band, the Heartbeats. The latter appear together on the energetic fiddle tune “Nothing Really,” and individually on several other tracks. Additional guests include Levon Helm (drumming on two tracks), Allison Moorer (tight trio harmony with Teresa Williams on “The Wrong Side”) and Jim Lauderdale (harmony on the acoustic “Snowbird”).
Producer Larry Campbell fits each song with a unique groove and adds superb electric and pedal steel guitar. The girlishness in Nevins’ voice and the layering of double-tracked vocals add a hint of the Brill Building, which is a terrific twist on the rustic arrangements. The lyrics cast an eye on relationships that refuse to live up to their potential, with music that underlines the certainty of a woman who will no longer suffer others’ indecision, inaction or infidelity. Three deftly picked covers include the standard “Stars Fell on Alabama” (from the film 20 Years After), the traditional “Down South Blues,” and Van Morrison’s “Beauty of Days Gone By.” Campbell and Nevins work some real magic here, creating a musical platform that often feels a more crafted fit for Nevins’ singing than that of her long-time group.