Umbrella still not necessary

Blue Mountain Rain (Shoestring)
Karen Lynne

by Bob Mitchell

Berk Bryant, a.k.a. The Country Gentleman, and host of local public radio's "Sunday Bluegrass," brought this recording to my attention and I am glad he did. It is a dandy one designed to raise the profile of Australian Bluegrass.

Interestingly, Karen Lynne is the first Australian female artist to present an entirely Bluegrass album. Already it has received two Top 10 nominations in the National Australian Country Music "Golden Guitar" Awards: one for the exciting banjo duet "Big Ben," and the other one for Lynne as female vocalist. In addition, this CD garnered four nominations for the Victorian Country Music Awards for best group, best instrumental, female vocalist and best independent release. (It won the latter.)

If that is not enough to sell you, consider this: Lynne's original composition, "This Ring," not only made it to No. 5 on the Australian National Country Music chart but also was selected for use in a movie. Blue Mountain Rain was conceived by Lynne following an on-stage collaboration with Sydney bluegrass band Acoustic Shock.

Eighteen tracks showcase a variety of tempos, outstanding arrangements and fine musicianship. Some of my favorites include five exceptional covers: Don Reno's "You're No Longer a Sweetheart Of Mine," Jim & Jesse's "Pardon Me," Webb Pierce's "Pathway of Teardrops," Buck Owen's "My Heart Skips a Beat," and Hank Locklin's "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On." Lynne's vocals are strong and sensitive. Musical support is solid throughout the release but the musicians really shine on several instrumentals: "Big Ben," and the national anthem of country music, A.P. Carter's "Wildwood Flower."

While I don't agree with every press kit I read, I must concur with the following statement: "The material is expansive and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience as it wanders from the foot-tapping songs and instrumentals, through to the deep, full-harmony slower songs. This combination is a truly complementary and pleasing one. Anyone who loves traditional Bluegrass played the traditional way with gorgeous 3-part harmony will love this album."

Although Lynne is playing in Australia, her Bluegrass is authentic and I hope to hear her playing in the United States someday. With a label name like Shoestring, you gotta love it and you gotta know it's bluegrass. Song selection is currently under way for another Bluegrass album in 2004, so stay tuned.

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