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Dehlia Low

Ravens & Crows – 2011 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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For bluegrass to be as hidebound by tradition as it sometimes tends to be, there are plenty of young acts making serious inroads into the scene, from Steep Canyon Rangers to Chatham County Line. Add Asheville, N.C.'s Dehlia Low to that list with this Rebel Records debut.

Formed a few short years ago, the group has a few independent self-released recordings to their credit already, so Dehlia Low isn't as green as it might appear at first. They play with the assuredness and ability of veteran pickers and singers, and 10 of the 12 tracks were written by the band.

Singers Anya Hinkle and Stacey Claude have the kind of raw mountain soul voices that one finds more in old-time than the typically slicker bluegrass acts - Iris Dement or Cary Fridley rather than Alison Krauss or Rhonda Vincent, in other words. Their relatively unschooled sound renders the songs more authentically, as on the ancient-sounding folk harmonies of the title track.

Produced by Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters, the instrumental side of the equation is equally timeless; with the mandolin picking of Bryan Clendenin and some Rob Ickes-worthy resophonic guitar from Aaron Ballance, bluegrass fans probably won't even notice the absence of a banjo.

The one characteristic of great bluegrass is a high level of ensemble playing, which Dehlia Low exhibits throughout, from the gospel turn on lead vocals of bassist Greg Stiglets on Thunder to the traditional Cannonball Blues where the players gently fade into the tune one by one.

So, despite their unorthodox lineup and the sometimes more folk or old time leaning of their material, the members of Dehlia Low have come up with a way to work themselves into the latest batch of young bluegrass bands worth hearing.