You just can’t have a good summer mix tape without some bluegrass. Whether you’re getting liquored up at a festival down at the fairgrounds or spending some quality time with the family at the annual church picnic, bluegrass just sounds like a carefree, sunny day. Yes, there are plenty of songs about heartbreak and angst, and I’m not sure any genre has more classic murder ballads. But you usually have to pay close attention to the lyrics to realize it. Meanwhile, the sound of claw-hammer banjo or flat-picked guitar is almost guaranteed to get people up and dancing.
Lucky me that the latest release from Missy Werner, Turn This Heart Around, slid across my inbox last week. It’s bluegrass in all its finest forms. Missy takes the vocal lead on all the tracks, with occasional harmonies from the likes of Sierra Hull and Sarah Siskind, and plenty of harmony from the band itself. Her voice has that clear-as-a-bell quality you get from an Alison Krauss or Rhonda Vincent. So whether it’s the slow ballad of Dead Man Walking or the tumbling rapids of Rocks In the River, nearly every song is anchored with Werner’s voice. There is a lone instrumental track on the disc, Snake In the Grass, where the band gets to stretch their solo chops.
While I really liked a couple of the uptempo tunes on the album, like Rough Edges and Cloudless Blue, everything came together best on Come Back To Me, with its soaring vocals and rock solid instrumentals. Having said that, the most interesting song on the album is Travelin’ Light. Its gospel harmonies and call-and-response chorus have a purity of style that suck you in to hitting repeat more than once.