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Evie Ladin Band

Jump the Fire – 2016 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Evie Ladin Band

Though not a majority, probably not even all that many of them, a segment of the counterculture of the Sixties who couldn't abide the coming of disco in the next decade fueled a revival in the 1970s of the "old time" music of the American heartlands: the string band music based on the Scots-Irish fiddle and banjo tunes of the early colonial settlers, the a cappella ballads and shape note singing found in the Primitive Baptist churches, the ramblin' and gamblin' songs recorded by early "hillbilly" stars like Charlie Poole and Jimmie Rodgers, and much, much more of the deeply-rooted traditional American sounds. Many of these "leftover hippies" had been raised in urban or suburban environments, not "in the tradition", and as they began raising their own families, their kids got dragged along to the various festivals, fiddler's conventions, square dances and other events energized by the music. New Jersey native Evie Ladin was one of those kids who spent a lot of childhood summers in places like Mount Airy, N.C., Galax, Va. and Clifftop, West Va., and like many of her contemporaries, she grew up playing the music for her own enjoyment.

Like other young "old time" women of her generation (other notable examples include Abigail Washburn and Rayna Gellert), Ladin used her background in old time music as a launchpad to investigate the music of other cultures (including in her case, Nigeria) and assimilate it all into a songwriting and performance ethic distinctly her own. After forming her own Evie Ladin Band with bassist/percussionist Keith Terry and guitarist Erik Pearson, their self-titled debut in 2012 drew enough raves to land them Americana Album of the Year from the Independent Music Awards/Vox Pop. Four years later, "Jump The Fire" finds them still one of the most adventurous and hard-to-label outfits on the scene.

Ladin's frailing, "clawhammer" banjo playing is at the core of the band's instrumental sound, and while she can keep up to speed with the best of them, she relies more on tone and timing here to convey what each song is trying to say. Her songwriting, as on "Under The Waterline" and "Heat Of The Day" is intelligent and imaginative without being pretentious or obtuse, and she even works in occasional references and musical "cameos" ranging from the Carter Family to the Rolling Stones.

As a vocalist, Ladin's voice is unerringly clear, rich, and on pitch - she would be equally at home fronting a swing band or a jazz quartet, and on "Drinking About You" she goes the full honky tonk, but she seems to have found her niche blending old time sounds with blues, country, African and whatever else suits her mood. It's not easy to describe, but it's easy to listen to and appreciate.