Nora Jane Struthers Takes Us Back to Old Country

Country Carnival Pack
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Are you sick of Country music that sounds like that slick 1980s pop-rock genre called “New Country?” Are you ready for some Old Country? The kind where pedal steel wails, voices keen, and fiddles fly during the breakouts? Check out the latest EP from the angelic Nora Jane Struthers, who might just have the most gorgeous voice since Lori McKenna broke through. Country Pack is a sampler from her 2013 release Carnival with a few other tracks thrown in; including her killer cover of “Till I Kissed You,” an Everly Brothers classic. It’s typical of Struthers’ approach­--a vintage piece or rockabilly, complete with strong walking bass lines from Brian Duncan and gorgeous close harmony singing with Joe Overton. The latter also plays banjo, as we hear on "Party Line," the song for which the band is named. Overton also hews more to tradition than to innovation. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bela Fleck-like artistic improv, but if you want to induce the feeling of coal dust Appalachia, Overton’s is the better musical frame.

I have read that Ms. Struthers is a fan of vintage clothing as well as retro music. It is, of course, a risk to turn back the clock, but Struthers and her band are not a Country version of Sha Na Na. Quite the opposite. Her Appalachian-style tunes sound stump-water genuine, her bluegrass selections evoke backwoods creeks, and her honky-tonk conjures the smell of stale beer rather than overpriced Chardonnay. On "Carnival" we rekindle the sense of wonderment from a country fair and that whirl of energy we associate with simpler times. This is Country-folk music that’s about love gone wrong, hope, hard times, simple things, the road, and the cabin. "Must Have Been Out of Mind" feels like what you'd get if you crossed heartbreak Country with gospel music.  Each track manages to be complex musically without overwhelming Struthers’ voice or resorting to studio chicanery. Loved it! –Rob Weir

Check this track on YouTube.

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