Filled with perky radio-friendly bluegrass that borrows significantly from country, Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain show solid musicianship throughout its debut - produced by Jim Van Cleve (Mountain Heart, ex-Quicksilver) - with solid, upbeat tunes like "Seven Miles from Wichita" and "Going on the Next Train."
In addition to vocalist Hassler, the group includes Josh Miller (banjo), Josh Swift (Dobro), Kevin McKinnon (mandolin), Keith McKinnon (guitar), and Travis Anderson (bass), each of whom shows their chops on the instrumental "Sensabaugh Tunnel."
Hassler's pleasant, clear voice is featured on the a cappella "Least That I Can Do," a plaintive gospel number with a delivery reminiscent of the spare beauty of Celtic singer Connie Dover brings to her performances and recordings. Hassler is accompanied by a host of male voices, anchored ably by Van Cleve's rich bass.
Notable cover selections give bluegrass and country equal time: a nice version of Carter Stanley's "Our Last Goodbye" and the country classic "Leavin' on Your Mind."
Although Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain straddle that ever-blurrier genre line, this auspicious debut lives up to the time-tested "always leave ‘em wanting more" recording creed. (Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia, CA 91066-0040)