Shannon & Heather Slaughter & County Clare
One More Road
Elite Circuit Music
4 stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
There are many covers of “If I Were A Carpenter” but the Slaughters’ version is going into my list of favorite cuts. The couple’s (Shannon and Heather) voices meld well and the instruments, especially the banjo, are restrained, making the song comfortable and easy listening.
County Clare isn’t a bluegrass household name—yet—but they have performed with well known names like the Lonesome River Band and Larry Stephenson. Shannon Slaughter is an accomplished songwriter (nominated for a Dove Award and winner of the Chris Austin songwriting contest at Merlefest) and was co-writer on half the songs on this CD. He sings and plays guitar while Heather Slaughter sings and, on the CD, plays upright bass (she’s switched to mandolin now). They’re joined on the CD by John Boulware (fiddle, vocals), Ron Inscore (now departed from the band, playing mandolin and adding vocals), Casey Murray (banjo). Rob Ickes (resonator guitar) is one of the guest musicians. The arrangements are well done and there’s a variety of music.
If you missed the TV miniseries Hatfields and McCoys then “The Ballad of Johnse Hatfield” may not make a lot of sense to you. It’s one version of those tragic times while the “true” version can be found in a post by one of Devil Anse Hatfield’s descendants. Historical accuracy aside, this is a good example of mountain music with many verses and a limited range of melody, along with Tina Steffey’s (wife of Adam Steffey) clawhammer banjo. A change of pace musically but with another tragic story is “Daddy Killed The Calf,” a story of hard times on the farm in the Oklahoma dust bowl days of the ’30s.
They go back to the Civil War and still more tragedy with “The Lives of the Innocent,” featuring a guitar break by Slaughter. It’s hard to write anything about that war without a theme of tragedy and this is another story of death and loss. “They Never Got the Chance” is another slant on tragedy, a commentary on lives lost because of abortion. But not everything is dark on the CD. “When Scruggs Made Me a Star” is a fast moving number about Earl Scruggs’ influence on bluegrass, another tip of the hat to one of the great masters of the banjo.
The range of topics and styles keep you interested in this CD. They do reach out to other songwriters, including a couple of hits from the country music world. Heather Slaughter sings an excellent country version of “Pass Me By,” recorded in 1973 by Bob Luman and Johnny Rodriguez, most commonly associated with the latter. This cut features Mike Johnson on the steel. (He is the bandleader on RFD-TV’s Country’s Family Reunion.) She also does a resounding version of Rodney Crowell’s “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” made a hit by both Emmylou Harris and Lynn Anderson. For pure Monroe bluegrass it’s hard to beat Bill Castle’s “It’s In My Mind To Wander.”
Good singing, good music, good arrangements and a variety of themes and musical styles—this is a CD that will keep you listening from start to finish.