Let's Hear it For the Girls

O Sister 2: A Women's Bluegrass Collection (Rounder Records)
Various Artists

By Larry Alexander

Every once in a while you are fortunate enough to pick a CD that is a winner throughout. O Sister 2 is a winner throughout. Some of the twenty-one cuts are better than others, but there is not a bad one in the group.

The CD starts with some classic foot-stompin' old-timey bluegrass tunes played in the traditional way. The artists carry the old-timey theme to perfection. Laurie Lewis starts off with the classic "Tall Pines" accompanied with some fine pickin'. This is followed by exceptional vocal and instrumental talent throughout. A real surprise was the haunting voice of Ginny Hawker on "Don't Neglect the Rose" and Carol Jones on "Someday." "Poor Ellen Smith" by Wilma Lee Cooper is a classic.

I have to give cut 19, "Memories of You," the most attention. I listened to it at least 50 times in two weeks. "Memories of You" has now surpassed Bill Monroe's "Evening Prayer Blues" as my favorite bluegrass rendition of all times. Yes, my favorite. The quality of the production, the vocals and the instrumentals are almost indescribable. Wayfaring Strangers mix traditional lyrics with violin, viola, clarinet, banjo, guitar and bass - that's right, a clarinet in a bluegrass song that is used to paint an incredible picture. The vocals complement the instrumentals and the recipe is gourmet. If this cut doesn't move you, check your pulse.

It doesn't stop with cut 19. Next, Marie Burns sings "Willow" with the Woodshed All-Stars. Marie's pure voice mixed with excellent instrumentals continues the artistry. Listen to 19 and 20 in a dark room and paint your own canvas. "Jewels" by Alison Krauss and Suzanne Cox closes the CD with a lovely reverence. "Jewels" is the perfect last cut for the CD. It will make you feel that you are in the country church again.

O Sister 2 is one of the finest bluegrass CDs I have ever heard. In fact, it is one of the best CDs I have heard in any category. Quality of production, vocals and instrumentals is the rule. O Sister 2 is a winner throughout.