3 Penny Acre - Highway 713 PENNY ACRE
Second String 001

3 Penny Acre is a young trio from the Midwest who’ve assembled an understated collection of ten original songs. While there is a smattering of appearances by banjo and fiddle on a few of the tracks, the overall approach is simply the three voices of Bryan and Bernice Hembree and Bayard Blain supported by mandolin, guitar and bass.

It’s a folksy sound and the themes of their songs stay true to that. The CD features predominantly story songs of rural life and small town characters, told simply and without flourishes. The harmonies are sweet and strong, and each lead singer in turn does a fine job, with Bernice Hembree’s voice perhaps being better featured on the gentler songs such as “Highway 71” and “Ballad Of John Lambeth” than on a piece on which she wails with abandon like “I Ain’t Blind.”

Highway 71 is definitely more of a songwriter’s and singer’s album, which may limit its appeal to those who prefer an inyourface driving bluegrass sound. Many of the songs don’t lodge themselves in my mind’s ear, which in many ways might be the ultimate litmus test for a project like this. All in all this band might be best suited for a folk/Americana audience than a bluegrass one, until such time as the songs themselves speak with a more memorable voice. (Jared Ingersol, 21 Vineyards Ct., St. Charles, MO 63304, www.3pennyacre.com.) HK