album reviews

Uncle Earl
Waterloo, Tennessee
Rounder (2007)

On "Waterloo, Tennessee," it's easy to see the individual contribution of each of the four women in the string band Uncle Earl. Rayna Gellert's fiddle may be the group's most recognizable element; it drives the bouncy "Wish I Had My Time Again" and adds a ghostly tone to the group's cover of Ola Belle Reed's "My Epitaph." Abigail Washburn's voice on "The Last Goodbye" captures the song's mixed emotions with equal parts melancholy and sass, and her banjo complements her soft yodeling on "D&P Blues."

On "Bony on the Isle of St. Helena," Kristin Andreassen's soothing singing turns the ballad about Napoleon's last days into a folksy lullaby. Andreassen's guitar and K.C. Groves's mandolin lay a foundation for most of Uncle Earl's songs, but Groves's most stunning moment comes with her crystal-clear, Alison Krauss-like vocals on "I May Never," a composition whose lyrics were penned by her mother, Carol Groves.

But Uncle Earl is clearly a collaborative effort, not a collection of talented women fighting for the spotlight. On "One True," Andreassen's gentle voice serves as a foundation for her bandmates' rich harmonies, and the prayerlike "Easy in the Early ('Til Sundown)" is a haunting a cappella song anchored by the women's stomps and hand claps.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 16 March 2007, Page WE06
.: Waterloo, Tennessee on