An Exceptional Debut

Carrie Hassler (Rural Rhythm)
Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain

By Bob Mitchell

This is an outstanding hard-driving bluegrass project and one of the strongest debut releases I've ever heard. Hassler and her phenomenal band Hard Rain, based in Tennessee, provide an energetic first-rate listening experience from the first note to the last.

Reviewers are privileged to experience music from established artists as well as those who will make up the next generation and you can be assured Hassler will be a prominent member of the next generation. The energy and honesty in her crystalline vocals confirm a strong work ethic and commitment to bluegrass. And, brilliant musical support, like her vocals, is exhilarating from the moment the laser hits the disc. As Jon Weisberger says in his liner notes, Hassler offers "a new synthesis of contemporary and older bluegrass and country sounds both honoring and extending tradition." Indeed, she does.

Among the many highlights are expressive covers for Webb Pierce's "Leavin' On Your Mind," and Carter Stanley's "Our Last Goodbye," and the electrifying version of "Going On The Next Train." Josh Miller (banjo), Josh Swift (resophonic guitar) and Kevin McKinnon (mandolin) contribute solid back up and two impressive original tunes: "Restless State of Mind," and a blistering instrumental, "Sensabaugh Tunnel." Travis Anderson and his steady bass complete the group.

Guesting on this recording are Mountain Heart band members Jim Van Cleve (fiddle and vocals), Clay Jones and Keith McKinnon (Guitar) and Adam Steffey (mandolin). Kentucky Thunder member Darrin Vincent provides harmony vocals. On a five-point scale of excellence this release merits a sizzling five.

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