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James King

The Bluegrass Storyteller – 2005 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by James King

Following a studio absence of 3 years, James King returns for his 5th release on Rounder, a collection of 13 tunes that is possibly his most complete effort to date. As the title suggests, it's a baker's dozen of songs old and new from a who's who of writers that tell classic stories of love lost and love found, sin and redemption, good luck and bad luck, and a classic tearjerker or two thrown in for good measure.

Long known as one of the most forceful and direct vocalists in bluegrass, King shows surprising sensitivity and depth on "She Took His Breath Away" and "Jerusalem Tomorrow," David Olney's dark tale of shady evangelism.

There are also intriguing revisits of country classics "Carroll County Accident" and "Saginaw, Michigan", but the album's crown jewel may well be the Carl Jackson-Jon Randall tune "Cold Hard Facts of Lies," a classic in the making. King's husky voice is as emotive as ever, and he benefits here from his best supporting cast yet, with the harmony vocals by mandolinist Kevin Prater and banjo player Ben Greene adding a number of particularly chilling moments.