Larson first came to my attention when I reviewed Mansions Of Kings by Frontline (January 2004). At that time, she provided superb lead vocals and fiddle for another band. Now on her own, Larson has released her first solo project and it is an excellent showcase for astute, warm work.
She remains a gifted vocalist and fiddle player, with a deep respect for the melody and message in each song. The opening track, "A Little Ways Down The Road," is a gentle reflection of time gone by. Eleven more cuts round out this recording and several songs deserve to be singled out. I especially enjoyed "Sun's Gonna Shine In My Backdoor Someday," an optimistic song with a wonderful fiddle solo and a word of caution for women about men. Larson puts everything she has into a bluesy groovy in "Fare Thee Well Nothumberland," featuring outstanding bow work from Ron Stewart (who also plays banjo on three other tracks) and some great mandolin chops from Mike Marshall (who also plays guitar on two other tracks).
Another favorite cut is the emotional "Early In The Spring," the poignant story of a sailor who writes to the love of his life, receives no reply, returns home to learn she married another man and goes back to the sea and "his duty to the king." Other strong entries include a compelling cover of Jean Ritchie's "The Soldier"; the light-hearted and bluesy "Let That Liar Alone," with outstanding support from Laurie Lewis (harmony) and Orville Johnson (guitar); and another cover, Vince Gill's "This Lonely Heart Of Mine," with impressive support from bandmate Dale Atkins on guitar. Atkins exhibited remarkable instrumental creativity with Frontline and he continues to do so with Larson's new configuration.
Additional musical support comes from Dee Ann Davidshofer and the remarkable Todd Phillips on bass, Jeff Smith on mandolin (his work is especially good in "Sing Me A Song"). The real workhorse on this release is Laurie Lewis, as she provides harmony vocals, bass, fiddle (especially noteworthy on "The Soldier"), banjo and rhythm guitar.
For more information, check out www.leahlarsonband.com.