Judith Edelman - Drama Queen
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Drama Queen (Compass, 2000)

Judith Edelman

Reviewed by John Lupton

The Judith Edelman's Band's brand of progressive, contemporary bluegrass has become a popular attraction on the festival circuit, but it would be something of a stretch to describe her new solo release as bluegrass. Granted, the production and arrangements are all-acoustic and feature a pretty substantial cast of bluegrass sidemen (Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes and husband Matt Flinner, who co-produced with Edelman), but for one thing, there's almost no banjo. Mostly, though, it's the songs themselves (12 Edelman originals plus one instrumental written with Flinner) that mark this as much more of a singer-songwriter, Americana effort.

A native New Yorker, Edelman probably shouldn't be expected to write about little cabin homes on hills, and the themes she delves into certainly aren't the sort that Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers explored much - nuns, for one ("The Sisters Of St. Timothy").

Unlike much of what's called folk music these days, though, Edelman's writing is intelligent, story-driven, and refreshingly restrained when it comes to navel-gazing. Her vocal style carries something of the same breathless, whispering quality as Alison Krauss, and while she probably won't pick you up out of your seat, the singing and material here is more than equal to the challenge of holding the listener's attention.

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