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Dixie Bee-Liners

Ripe – 2008 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Dixie Bee-Liners

The Dixie Bee Liners' sophomore release provides a stellar showcase for lead singer Brandi Hart, whose ability to switch from Appalachian folk to blues and flat-out bluegrass makes each number wring with authenticity. Producer Bill VornDick has sharpened the Bee Liners instrumental focus, subtly mixing Sam Morrow's syncopated banjo runs and Rachel Renee Johnson's Celtic fiddle rides as if they were atmospheric pop interludes. Further, he capitalizes on guitarist-songwriter Buddy Woodward's voice-acting chops by allowing the co-founder to interpret "Grumble Jones" in the voice of a Civil War veteran and puckishly add the crazed old man's voice in "Old Charlie Cross."

Although all the songs are original, two are remakes from their first album - "Lost in Silence" and "Lord, Lay Down My Ball and Chain." On these we can hear Hart's growth from tentative interpreter to master of folk despair and pleading gospel respectively. Whether essaying the raw hillbilly of "Down on the Crooked Road," romping Alison Krauss style through "Bugs in the Basement" or wringing tears with the old-timey "She's My Angel," the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter channels backwoods emotion a-plenty.

Nicely sequenced and boasting unique poetic perspectives ("Dixie Grey to Black," "Jefferson Railroad Line"), this atmospheric 12-song set is both heartfelt and catchy.