Rebekah Long

Here I Am – 2016 (LUK)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by Rebekah Long

In days of disarray and dispute over whether the country is on the right track, it's nice to know that a artist with simple roots can grow into a musical force by will and talent. There's still a place for those people. Listening to Rebekah Long's " Here I Am" affirms that.

Long, who grew up in south Georgia, found her way north out of that hard country to Nashville after honing her bluegrass musicianship at college in West Virginia with Buddy Griffin, a former Virginia Boy who backed up Jim and Jesse McReynolds.

Along the way, Long became an audio engineer in Nashville to add to her professional chops. Now, Long has put together a stirring bluegrass CD with the help of some of the most stout session players in Nashville with admirable effect. "Ain't Life Sweet," the first selection, sums it up: country life, country voice and country music. Long co-wrote the song with her producer, Donna Ulisse and Ulisse's husband, Rick Stanley. Jesse Brock stamps the song with his distinctive mandolin picking that pervades each song. Ulisse also contributes a co-write with Long, "He's Never Coming Back Again." Ulisse, Stanley and Long also wrote "Hairpin Hattie," a sad, authentic railroad song.

Long's vocal style owes a bit to Loretta Lynn and a lot to her Georgia upbringing; it's direct and precise, but melodic. Her confidence allows her to take on Merle Haggard's "The Fightin' Side of Me," which sung in a different place and time, takes on an attitude of resistance to the extreme left or right. Dobro player Justin Moses has a particularly tasty turn on "Fightin'."

Long has worked with Tom T. and the late Dixie Hall in their recording studio, and on "Here I Am" she takes Tom T.'s maudlin "I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew" and gives it depth and spirit. Scott Vestal on banjo, Brock, and Moses (this time on fiddle) crack the tempo to prevent the song from sliding into syrupy sweetness.

Long has a fine voice, and is confident enough to call upon the solid talents of fellow songwriters and musicians. "Here I Am" is a fresh take on bluegrass music and musicianship.