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a Little Deeper
Artist: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Master mandolist Doyle Lawson and his bluegrass aces in Quicksilver have long volleyed between gospel 'grass--which they've taken to extraordinary technical heights--and material of greater general appeal at which they're no slouches either. Dig a Little Deeper is their latest longplayer of the latter variety, and variety it has aplenty.
It takes an imaginatively deft ear for arranging to turn Jim Reeves' classic of countrypolitan schmaltz, "Four Walls," into one of the highest 'n' lonesomest cuts on a 12-tune set. Lawson and 'Silver move on to tackle the sadly more realistic heartache of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer's disease on "Saving Grace." The latter is the kind of tearjerker a sensitive country traditionalist such as Joe Nichols could turn into airplay gold.
On a happier note, the band emphasizes the righteous realism in Porter Wagoner's "What Ain't To Be, Just Might Happen" and gives it a measured sprightliness. Even more joyous is one of the group's rare instrumentals, "Rosine," named for the Kentucky town of bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe's birth.
Elsewhere, when Lawson and his guys aren't giving encouragement on the titular number, they give their genre more songs of broken romance ("Heartbreak Number Nine," "Blues For My Darling") and the tension between restlessness and contentment ("Knee Deep In Bluegrass") on which it was founded . . . apart from gospel. Listen for the harmonized yodelling that closes "Knee Deep."
The only ground Lawson and Quicksilver break here is the refinement of their already catgut-on-a-tennis-raquet tightness. Granted, that Reeves' cover might count as aesthetic redemption of the poppy ravages of the Nashville Sound; otherwise, Dig a Little Deeper continues the winning ways of the indubitably solid band Lawson has led for 26 years. That's more than achievement enough.
Jamie Lee Rake June 2, 2005