Husband and wife Darin and Brooke Aldridge style themselves the Sweethearts of Bluegrass and have recently released their second record together on the independent label Mountain Home. Recorded in North Carolina and produced by songwriter Jerry Salley (who contributes backing vocals on a number of tracks), there is a careful mixture of sacred and secular (but predominantly positive) material. The musicianship is exemplary, largely coming from the couple’s regular band (with Rob Ickes guesting on dobro on a few tracks). Multi-instrumentalist Darin plays guitar and mandolin, but the focus of the album is on wife Brooke.
She has a sweet, pure voice not dissimilar tonally to Rhonda Vincent, and a subtle interpretative ability. She takes the lead on the majority of the songs, including the charming mid-tempo opener ‘I Thought I’d Seen It All’, a positive travelog-cum-love song about the surprise love brings, written by Burton Collins and Lisa Shaffer.
Her voice has a more piercing quality on the pastoral ‘Corn’, also written by Shaffer, this time with Bill Whyte, about the joys of rural living and true love. Producer Salley and Donna Ulisse wrote ‘It Moves Me’, a thoughtful take on appreciating the beauties of nature, this time on the Gulf Coast “where I swear I can see God’s hand”. This is that rare thing, a beach song I can truthfully say I like.
The outstanding track is the religious ‘The Last Thing On His Mind’, a beautiful and moving reflection on Calvary, written by Dennis K Duff. The optimistic ‘The Light From Heaven’ (about hope), which precedes it, pales in comparison but Brooke sounds good. I really liked the pure bluegrass lament for a failing relationship, where she can’t make ‘Something Out Of Nothing’. This is the only sad-tinged song here, no doubt a reflection of their real-life relationship.
The pair both sing in close harmony with alternating solo lines on a delightful version of Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson’s ‘Sweetest Waste Of Time’. This couple’s version is sweeter sounding than the rawer original, although the arrangement is broadly similar (check this), and is one of my favorite tracks.
Their gorgeous close harmonies are also showcased on ‘Let’s Not Go There’, a pretty song written by Tom T Hall and his wife Dixie about not dwelling on past relationships or mistakes:
The past is all behind us now
The future’s ours to share
There’s nothing back there for us
Let’s not go there
Let’s not go there there’s nothing we can change
Let’s not go there
Let’s not relive the pain
Wondering who was to blame
Won’t get us anywhere
Everybody has a past
Let’s not go there
Listen to this live here.
‘Remind Me Again’ is another nice romantic duet, this time rekindling the flame of love in an established relationship, written by Jerry Salley (who sings harmony vocals on a number of tracks) and Tammi Kidd.
Salley also co-wrote the exhilarating acappella bluegrass gospel ‘I’m Building On The Rock Of Ages’ with Steve Watts, and also joins the couple in a quartet, together with Greg Luck. Brooke’s voice is most prominent through most of the song, with Darin compensating by taking a solo line, but the whole arrangement and vocal mix is great, and this is yet another highlight.
Darin’s husky tenor takes the lead on the gospel ‘Moses’ (another written by Dennis K Duff), but this, while pleasantly sung, is more forgettable. Much better is his own song ‘Hero Of Mine’, a tribute to Vince Gill,
I’ll look up to him til the end of time
How he could play and sing all those songs
I could sit and listen to him pick all night long
He’s helped me get through a lot of hard times
I listened to his songs to keep things off my mind
Id study his work til i got it right
But I’m still learning about the key to life
Everybody needs a hero
Someone that will help you carry on
When you find your strength is gone
That’s when your hero comes along
He’s been one of the good guys along the way
The last true artist on the Opry stage
Hit after hit he’s always stayed the same
He’s a hero of mine, that’ll never change
now when the time comes and he moves along
He’s gonna live on through all his songs
He’l go rest high up there with all his kin
And sing for the Master who died for all our sins
This is a solid bluegrass set which showcases Brooke Aldridge’s beautiful voice. It should particularly appeal to Rhonda Vincent fans. Listen to clips here.