Twilite Broadcasters – Evening Shade (Twilite Broadcasters, 2010)
This North Carolina duo, Mark Jackson and Adam Tanner, sing the sort of two-part pre-Bluegrass harmonies that were popularized by the Osborne, Delmore, Monroe, Louvin and Everly brothers. The duo sings both happy and sad songs, but always with a sweetness that expresses the sheer joy of harmonizing. Accompanied by guitar (Jackson), mandolin and fiddle (both Tanner), the arrangements are simpler than a string band’s, with the guitar keeping time and the mandolin vamping before stepping out for relaxed solos. The instruments provide a platform for the voices, rather than racing to the front of the stage.
The duo performs songs written or made famous by the Delmores (“Southern Moon”), Everlys (“Long Time Gone”), Jim & Jesse (“Stormy Horizons”), and others, like Buck Owens & Don Rich (“Don’t Let Her Know”) who latched onto close harmonies that weren’t always high and lonesome. The waltzing invitation of “What Would You Give in Exchange For Your Soul” is sung in both harmony and counterpoint, and the oft-recorded “Midnight Special” sounds fresh and enthusiastic. Tanner’s mandolin steps forward for the instrumental “Ragtime Annie,” and he saws heavily on the fiddle for a cover of Doug Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man” and the celtic-influenced “Salt River.”
The public domain selections include a full-throated take on “More Pretty Girls Than One” (popularized and often credited to Woody Guthrie) on which the slow tempo draws out the chorus harmonies and begs the listener to find a place to sing along. Jackson and Tanner are fine instrumentalists, and winningly, they don’t hot-pick here with the fervor of bluegrass. Instead, they provide themselves tasteful support that leaves the spotlight on their voices and songs, and gives the record a warm, invitingly down-home feel.