First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2000, Volume 7, #7
Written by John Metzger
Transatlantic Sessions is the latest project to be released by Jerry Douglas and Skaggs Family Records. The dobro genius and increasingly visible producer has quietly built a solid reputation behind a tremendously impressive body of work. He has consistently been involved — both as a performer and a producer — in the best music coming out of Nashville.
On Transatlantic Sessions, which was originally recorded for a BBC television program (Transatlantic Sessions Two), Douglas gives the Nashville sound an interesting twist. By pairing U.S. artists like Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, and Rosanne Cash with their counterparts in the U.K., Douglas creates a more worldly country style that clearly makes comparisons between bluegrass and traditional Irish music.
At its best, Transatlantic Sessions strikes a perfect balance between the traditional music of the U.S. and that of the U.K., seamlessly merging both styles and bringing them clearly into focus. Storms Are on the Ocean settles into a gentle lilting groove of sadness; Maura O’Connell sings about economic hardship with indelible passion on Trouble in the Fields; Paul Brady tackles his tale of heroin addiction and American pop culture with a bit of a sneer as mandolin, fiddle, and dobro nearly veer into rock ’n‘ roll territory; and A Simple Life pairs the sound of Douglas’ dobro against the traditional Irish pipes of Iain MacDonald with remarkable effect. Likewise, Douglas’ own composition Tribute to Peadar O’Donnell begins with a subtle, soft-spoken beauty before concluding with the fiery flares of his dobro.
At their worst, however, the songs on Transatlantic Sessions shift too far to one side of the ocean (Sanseptique Set) or the other (Nobody Wins). Though they are quite good, they don’t say anything new, and as such they don’t seem to quite fit the theme for this release. Perhaps when set alongside the narrative of a television program, they fare better. Fortunately, these are the exceptions rather than the rule, making Transatlantic Sessions an intriguing find for the adventurous soul.
Transatlantic Sessions is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box