The Carter Brothers - The Road to Roosky
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The Road to Roosky (Compass, 2011)

The Carter Brothers

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

Kin to the Carter Family by way of their great-grandfather and A.P. being first cousins, Tim and Danny Carter came out of North Carolina to Nashville where they've forged a living writing songs, performing and operating their own studio. With Danny raised on electric blues and Tim favoring old time mountain banjo, the duo filters contrasting influences through Doc Watson and Jimmy Page to create a distinctive blend of roots music that is as bluesy as it is bluegrassy.

Road to Roosky, named after an Irish village, is one of three songs featuring Sam Bush on resonator slide mandolin. This lively yet introspective tune serves as the album's core, bringing poetic lyrical touches together with a driving hook that doesn't let go.

Several tracks will send listeners searching for original versions only to discover that Woman At the Well, Red Rooster and She's A Hurricane are fresh songs courtesy of the siblings. For a dyed-in-the wool bluegrasser, combining electric guitar and banjo shouldn't work this well, but as Tim O'Brien (who contributes to What Does the Deep Sea Say) suggests, "loosen your screws a few turns."

The album's finest moments may be contained within Sin. Over a percussive, hypnotic banjo roll, Tim laments dueling choices: the girl he shouldn't be hangin' out with and the possibility that St. Peter may deny him entrance if he continues on this path. Hillbilly rock 'n' roll, indeed.

While most material is original, the Carter Brothers delve into classics. Danny sings a memorable version of Soul of a Man while they also revisit Jerusalem Moan, a song recorded on their earlier album "Cracks in the Floor." On this rendition, and cut only months before his death, Vassar Clements plays fiddle and sings.

"The Road to Roosky" isn't a bluegrass album. Neither is it blues, country or rock. Containing elements of all these, and likely more, it is a splendid example of what can happen when musicians with vision are allowed free-reign over their art.

CDs by The Carter Brothers

The Road to Roosky, 2011

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