Darin & Brooke Aldridge - This Life We’re Livin’
Billy Blue Records
The best bluegrass shares no pretensions. For all the skill and aptitude reflected by the players and performances, it’s honesty and humility that ultimately shines through. Husband-and-wife duo Darin & Brooke Aldridge along with their crack band of supporting musicians are amongst the finest purveyors of modern, country-flavoured bluegrass music. In a little over ten years, they’ve emerged as one of the most successful acts on America’s bluegrass scene. Last year Brooke was named the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year for her fourth consecutive award and in 2017, Darin received the IBMA award for Mentor of the Year. They expertly mix in heartbreak, gospel, nostalgia and positive tunes that are at times joyfully uplifting and beautifully aching. Nuance and nostalgia are both prominent in their presentation, traits which are immediately apparent on standout track Old Fashioned. A song that shares universal thoughts about what used to be, when manners, respect and courtesy stood for something, with a desire to revisit a time when things were simpler and sedate. It’s an easy-going number, sung as a husband-and-wife reminisce over gentle acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle and Dobro with an invigorating purity and refreshing warmth.
Stuart Duncan’s fiddle is found at the centre of their revival of the Whites’ Blue Baby Now, whether propelling the pace or adding a mournful hue. Filled with Darin’s fine mandolin picking, Bryan Sutton’s smooth guitar and Ron Block’s banjo, this finds Brooke regretting a broken relationship over a toe-tapping rhythm which belies the sad lyrics. Heartbreak is on offer again in Once In A While, this time Darin takes the lead with Brooke adding high harmonies for a superb slice of country-tinged grass, that rolls along at a laidback pace, evoking memories of classic Everly Brothers. Happily, there are some songs that share happier thoughts—the life-affirming No Mistakes, the welcoming gospel embrace of There Is A Way and the abject affection of Livin’ Mama’s Dream. Brooke brings a high lonesome sound to the longing Grand Ole Circle, an ode to the Grand Ole Opry, one of five songs that they had a hand in co-writing. Million Miles Of Highway (When It’s Over) is a dreamy description of a slowly moving landscape of life, both around us and within, full of sweet memories, just like the waning of time and the resigned acceptance of life running its course. Darin provides the soaring lead vocal enhanced by Brooke’s haunting harmonies as the song’s optimism warms the heart of the listener. Another song of life experiences is the captivating My Life Living Me, with Brooke’s aching vocal sitting comfortably atop a gentle mandolin-led accompaniment. The dark tones from her high and light voice—which can shift between alto and soprano on a dime—carry so much pure emotion, creating the vibe of an old-time mountain ballad. They turn their hand to full-blown southern gospel with He’s Getting Me Ready, as they are joined by the Oak Ridge Boys, who launch themselves into a freewheeling frenzy, their expertise is evident and the way they blend voices and instruments in sync creates a dynamic that’s fully fleshed out through solos and savvy playing.