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Red Tail Ring

The Heart's Swift Foot – 2013 (Earthwork)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Red Tail Ring

"I've been riding all night long" is the line that begins the latest collection of songs of experience from Kalamazoo, Mich.'s Red Tail Ring. The duo, consisting of Laurel Premo (vocals/fiddle/banjo) and Michael Beauchamp (vocals/guitar/stings) bring more academic credentials to a band that is generally necessary: degrees in ethnomusicology, English and art feed their eccentric approach to Americana music (by way, for example, from Finnish trad music of British folk revival).

Don't worry that it's too heady to take in, though. These are largely traditional arrangements of love and loss, with the occasional break for a turn around the dance floor (Ladies' Choice Waltz, is a cinematic and gorgeous instrumental highlight). The opener Ohio Turnpike musically twists and turns with a sprawling, evocative take on how the road serves as a metaphor for life.

Beauchamp can't match Premo's vocal chops, so it's wise when he's kept to harmony duty against her lush leads. But his picking style might interest players. It doesn't have much virtuoso speed, but carries a great deal of feeling when he's languidly cascading across a strummed chord. It's also noticeable how the first half of the record stalls in finding its footing. But then it picks up a confident momentum from the mid-point on (Body Like a Bell, My Heart's Own Love). The pair would definitely find a welcome invitation on many an Appalachian porch.