Alvin Youngblood Hart
Hannibal 1431

On his second recording, Alvin Youngblood Hart comes up with a surprising and satisfying collection. From Western swing to country blues, Hart employs a variety of instruments and styles in this journey through American vernacular music. He has a great backwoods voice for story-telling and a gift for stringed instruments of every sort.

"Tallacatcha," the opener, sounds more like Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies than Muddy or Son House. With pedal steel and fiddle and Hart utilizing a partial yodel, this is old-time Western swing, and it serves notice that this will not be your usual blues album.

On the next cut, however, he takes things right down blues alley. "Illinois Blues" features Hart on finger-picked electric guitar, drawing out a moody, hypnotic story. He follows this with "Ouachita Run," a pretty 12-string instrumental. Next, "Sallie, Queen of the Pines," another beautiful song with just Hart and his guitar.

Things start getting really strange after that. On "Countrycide," he pulls out his electric and spins a dark, mysterious tale of death in the South. Then, of all things, a Captain Beefheart instrumental, "Ice Rose." He successfully maneuvers the hairpin turns and tempo shifts of the tune, but it sounds out of place even in this eclectic crowd.

Beefheart is followed by teardrops, as Hart plays a 12-string waltz, "Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" (based on the Lead Belly version). Next, he brilliantly reworks two folk classics, "Mama Donít Allow" and "John Hardy", another Lead Belly staple. The first he turns into a cautionary tale full of dread; on the second, his deep voice sounds like the earth itself.

Hartís territory is America and its music. On this original and unusual recording, he explores many hidden corners of sound and word. Pack a lunch and go with him.

ó David Feld

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Boulder, CO, USA.