Darin & Brooke Aldridge
So Much In Between
4½ stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
Reading the list of songs on the back of the CD may cause an arch in your eyebrows. It’s not often that you see the first four songs on a bluegrass CD with “love” in the title. When you associate that with their not-so-distant marriage you may detect a pattern.
This CD definitely leans towards the themes of sweetness, happiness and faith. Their website even calls them “the sweethearts of bluegrass.” There’s nothing wrong with that – the world could use a lot more happiness and faith – but bluegrassers tend to want to hear at least some of the harsher realities of life. Think of all the time-worn murder ballads, songs about mother (usually passed on), unfaithful lovers, drinking and missing home. We seem to embrace those themes. So Much In Between may fall a little too far on the happiness side for some, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.
Brooke and Darin Aldridge are talented performers. Brooke is relatively new to the life of a touring artist though she did have a CD on Pinecastle a while back. Darin, on the other hand, was a member of the last Country Gentlemen band before Charlie Waller’s death and has filled in with groups like Blue Highway and Blueridge. He plays several instruments but concentrates on mandolin these days. Both are very good singers and their harmonies are a pleasure to hear.
“Lonely Ends Where Love Begins” was co-written by Don Pfrimmer, a prolific songwriter with over four hundred songs to his credit according to ASCAP. “That’s Just Me Lovin’ You” is a country duet with a Dobro instead of a steel guitar and they sell it. If you could turn the clock back a few years and swap a couple of instruments you’d be thinking about some of the great duets of yesteryear, like Dolly & Porter.
The Dobro is played by guest Rob Ickes (Blue Highway). The regular band members include relatively unknown Dwayne Anderson on bass, Chris Bryant (Country Gentlemen) on banjo and Rachel Renee Johnson (Dixie Bee-Liners) on fiddle. They all turn in solid performances with Rachel helping on harmony vocals. Darin plays the guitar as well as the mandolin and no guitar player is listed in the band, which is unusual.
“Every Scar” switches course from the love theme, telling about how every scar tells something about your life and tying itself to the scars of Jesus. With “Things In Life” they break away from the mold of the first five songs with something that sounds more Monroe. It should because it’s from Don Stover, a Bluegrass Boy, the title cut on his Rounder LP from the ’70′s. I like what Darin and Brooke have on the CD but have to admit I welcome the change of pace here.
“Wildflower” is an interesting song, comparing the two lovers in various ways:
I’m a wildflower, by the highway
Up against the rain
And I’m an old man, growing tired
Getting used to the pain
Some interesting writing here and a very good song to listen to – more like country pop than bluegrass but that doesn’t take away from its beauty. Depending on your musical tastes, you may know about an equally beautiful and widely covered Wildflower, but they are different songs.
A surprising but interesting selection is Patsy Montana‘s giant hit, “[I Want To Be] A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” featuring Brooke doing some very good yodeling. “Jesus Walk Beside Me” and “Lord Lift Me Up” are traditional sounding bluegrass, the latter with some good harmony singing, and “He’s Already There,” with its minor chords and Dobro interludes, may be my favorite song on the CD.
This is good music, though I think the campfire pickers will like it better in the second half than the first. If the Aldridges can keep producing CDs of this caliber they should have a long career ahead of them.