Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin - ReturnJODY STECHER AND KATE BRISLIN
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Two albums ago, Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin recorded the songs of Utah Phillips. That was in 1997. Their next release in 2000 was a tribute to the Carter Family. Now, after a ten-year hiatus, they have returned with a recording aptly-named Return, on which they mix guitar and vocal duets with banjo/guitar/vocal duets and with mandolin/guitar duets, and on which they include a Utah Phillips song “Old Buddy Goodnight” and a Carter Family song, “Somebody’s Boy.”

The recording evokes an evening of playing and singing on the back porch. To be sure, there are moments in which Stecher and Brislin let go and the music approaches a rambunctious level. “Boat’s Up A River” shows a touch of it in the snap of the strings on Stecher’s nylonstrung banjo or in almost shouted lines of the melody. Brislin’s cover of “Somebody’s Boy” veers to that level in the chorus, and there is an inherent intensity that comes naturally to the blues tune “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning” and in the gospel song “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.”

Generally, though, the mood is relaxed and convivial. Gentle performances taken at slow and slow/medium dominate almost exclusively, be it the parlor-esque optimism of the orphan in “Every Bush And Tree,” the stately grace of Hazel Dickens’ description of her sister’s hard life in “Old Calloused Hands,” the ethereal quality and elegant guitar solos (Stecher’s) in “Fine Horseman,” the 1897 gospel classic “Beautiful,” or the 3/4-time tale of a love’s departure in “Rivers Of Texas.” Even the two mostly instrumental mandolin/guitar medleys of “Gunboat”/“Back Step Cindy” and “The Rainy Day”/“Pretty Little Widow”—while somewhat lively and danceable—are far more flowing than rollicking.

All told, high marks all around. So sit back, relax and enjoy. (Kate Brislin, c/o Leland et al, 199 Fremont St. #2100, San Francisco, CA 94105, BW