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Maggie Valley Band

The Hardest time – 2018 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Maggie Valley Band

Although many bands affirm their reverence for the roots, few do it with as much clarity, credence and conviction as the Maggie Valley Band. Hailing from Maggie Valley, N.C., sister duo Whitney and Caroline Miller repurpose the sounds they absorbed while immersing themselves in music as children and add a contemporary sheen to their vintage trappings. Often compared to bands like the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Drive-By Truckers, they successfully tap tradition while adding a freshness and urgency to their folky, folksy tunes.

Releasing two early EPs (2015's "Bring Us Back" and "Don't Go," released a year later), the latter brought them to the attention of Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter producer David Mayfield who produced. Mayfield hunkered down with the duo in Akron, Ohio and emerged with a 10-song set that fully affirms their commitment to authentic Americana.

Indeed, the mix of celebratory songs and pensive musings create a diversity that's evident at the outset. From the homespun sounds of "Angel Band" and the effortlessly embracing "Rambling Joe," to the earnest and upbeat "Sweet Anna" (featuring Mayfield on guest vocals) and the evident upward gaze of "Bring Us Back," the Millers find a remarkable mesh of sincerity and circumspect. All involved rise to the occasion. There's added invention in the instrumental dexterity that underscore "Cold Water" and the double time rhythms that propel "Railroad," just as the unlikely sound of a calliope gives "Hey Girl" a certain carnival-like revelry. Likewise, the Cajun-style waltz that defines "Meant To Be Lonesome" is swept up in sentiment, just as the pensive pining of "Leave Me Alone" adds emphasis to the heart that's caught up in heartbreak.

It's little wonder then that with "The Hardest Thing," the Maggie Valley Band makes that sentiment easy to understand.