“Two voices and two pairs of hands can produce some mighty fine music...their complementary harmony vocals and their driving and mutually supportive instrumental work on mandolin, banjo, and guitar...will rekindle your appreciation of the “small band” sound in bluegrass,” says Bluegrass Unlimited. Both Danny and Will are fourth-generation Appalachian master musicians who grew up together, living and breathing the tradition. The amazing live excitement of this old-time singin’ and pickin’ just gets lost on typical CDs. That’s why Mapleshade is so proud our two-mike purism really captured the sweet tremolo of the mandolin, the contrasting resonances of their vintage guitars, the twangy punch of Will’s banjo and his irresistible, honey-smooth baritone voice.
1. Red Mountain Wine (F.Guilbeau) -Listen to Sample
2. River Underground (W.Smith/R.Stanley)
3. Dusty Miller (Traditional)
4. Footsteps So Near (T.O'Brien,N.Forster)
5. Watson Blues (B.Monroe )
6. Jake Satterfield (D.Black)
7. Arkansas Traveler (Traditional)
8. Midnight On the Stormy Deep (Traditional)
9. Row Hoe (R.Stanley)
10. East Virginia (Traditional)
11. St. Anne's Reel (Traditional) -Listen to Full Song
12. Weeping Willow (Traditional)
13. Water So Cold (H. Howard)
14. Late Last Night (Traditional)
15. Pike County Breakdown (B. Monroe) -Listen to Sample
It's unfortunate tthe duo format has been relegated to the sidelines of contemporary bluegrass, in favor of the fullsized (quartet or quintet) band. From the stylistic ancestors and cousins like the Monroe Brothers, the Louvins, Hazel and Alice, and the Blue Sky Boys, to current paired performers such as Jim Hurst & Missy Raines, we can be reminded that there's a lot to commend that spares format of two voices and two instruments working closely and skillfully together.
Which brings us to this fine new recording by Danny Knicely and Will Lee. While I confess I had never heard of these two accomplished singers/pickers from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, this CD makes me ready to make up for lost time. They have solid credentials on their respective resumés, including stints with Magraw Gap, David Via & Corn Tornado, and Footworks. In addition, Will Lee's father, Ricky Lee, played with the Clinch Mountain Boys.
However, standing on their own abilities and reputations here, they acquit themselves quite well. Fifteen songs showcase their complementary harmony vocals and their driving and mutually supportive instrumental work on mandolin, banjo, and guitar. The album is divided about 50/50 into wellworn standards such as "Midnight On The Stormy Deep" and "Arkansas Traveler," (there are a halfdozeninstrumentals included, all from the Monroe/Stanley/traditional canon), and some choice covers of lesserknown songs. It's on these latter songs, like Harlan Howard's "Water So Cold" and the lively opening track, "Red Mountain Wine," that Knicely and Lee show what they can do with just the right amount of vocal expressiveness and musical chops to spare.
Two voices and two pairs of hands can produce some mighty fine music, and this CD is a welcome reminder. These guys will rekindle your appreciation of the "small band" sound in bluegrass. (Mapleshade Records, 5905 Old Crain Hwy., Upper Marlboro, MD 20772, www.mapleshaderecords.com.)- HK [February 2007 Issue] -Henry Koretzky