“Looney Bird ”
Ashleigh Caudill’s instrument- her voice- rings clear and true on her new CD from.
Caudill’s material, all of which he had a hand in composing, admirably displays her talent. The vibe conveys lazy high mountain summer days and endless possibilities of love and adventure. Not a bad place to be. “Sugarloaf Mountain” the second cut in the collection exemplifies this: a sweet fiddle line, light banjo counterpoint, and Caudill’s inviting but powerful vocals.
True to the bluegrass genre, Caudill checks in with at least three train songs; “Pork Pie Hat”, in which she ventures into a slight lower vocal range with equal effect. Matt Wingate (who played with Claire Lynch for four years or so) and Della Mae’s Jenni Lyn Gardner on mandolin mix nicely with Caudill’s voice. “Bonnie The Engineer” gives a 21st Century take to the oft-told struggles of trainmen/women/persons.
Caudill is an accomplished songwriter, and all the cuts on this CD were written or co-written by her, along with collaborators such as David Grier (“Franklin County”), Jess Ross, on the title cut, Wingate on “Bonnie” and the prolific Jon Weisberger on “Wait For The Sun To Shine Again”. Caudill plays with a tight claw hammer banjo style and even plays bass on a few cuts. It’s her record, to be sure, including the stellar collaborators that she signed on with. Caudill released the record herself and shares production credits with Jim Hurst. The mix, by Preston Schmidt and Robert Trapp, is an estimable example of how to showcase and enhance already outstanding performances and songwriting.
It’s Caudill’s record, to be sure, including her stellar collaborators. The side persons shine, notably Gardner, Joe K. Walsh, a mandolinist who never disappoints, and Byron McDowell on fiddle. Grier, a master guitarist, makes a cameo as well, on “Around Town”, a smoky number in which Walsh’s mandola nearly steals the show. Until Caudill’s bass break, that is.
Caudill’s voice and songwriting chops display a hearty, soulful, crisp but straight ahead approach. “Ashleigh Caudill” is a record by musicians, and for musicians. The rest of us get to share in the richness of the experience and it’s all good.