Music News & Reviews

CD review: ‘Traditional Duets’

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Talented female duo does right by familiar repertoire

While duets have long been a staple of Southern music, female duet acts have been rare.

There are icons, of course: Sara and Maybelle of the legendary Carter Family and, more recently, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard.

Those celebrated pairings inform the muse of Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins, members of the Kickin’ Grass bluegrass band, as they present the 13-track CD, “Traditional Duets.”

With Dawson on guitar and Hopkins on fiddle, the women choose a familiar repertoire drawn from old-time, country, and bluegrass sources.

Standouts include the Carter Family’s “A Distant Land to Roam,” the women’s complementary voices melding, high-low, with the bittersweet pang of longing, and “Train on the Island,” a favorite from Grayson and Carroll counties in Virginia, steams ahead with Hopkins’ old-time fiddle at full throttle, while the Watson Family’s “Your Lone Journey” summons the sorrow of death leavened by heavenly assurance.

Dawson and Hopkins favor the bluesy side of bluegrass with Bill Monroe’s “Sittin’ Alone in the Moonlight” and “Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day,” and Tex Ritter’s “Long Time Gone.”

With Dawson’s rock-steady guitar providing the rhythmic foundation for Hopkins’ lyrical fiddling, they offer instrumental delights with Monroe’s “Cheyenne” and a haunting presentation of “Bonaparte’s Retreat.”

Closing with the a cappella hymn, “Beautiful Hills of Galilee,” “Traditional Duets” presents a thoughtful, enjoyable romp through early country classics performed by two talented doyennes of the Triangle’s fertile country roots music scene.

Correspondent Jack Bernhardt

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