NORA JANE STRUTHERS, “Nora Jane Struthers,” Blue Pig Music. 12 tracks.
Nora Jane Struthers calls her music “Classic Americana,” not bluegrass. But her new self-titled album features a cast of top bluegrass musicians.
The lineup includes Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton, Dennis Crouch, Shawn Lane, Tim O’Brien, Scott Vestal and Rob Ickes.
“It’s not really bluegrass, it’s not really old time, it’s not folk — it’s all of these things,” the 26-year-old former high school English teacher says on her website.
You’ll find fair maids and other touches of folk ballads here, but Struthers wrote all the songs except the traditional ballad “Say Darlin’ Say.”
It’s a literary album with a lot of short stories.
There’s “Willie,” a murder ballad told by the victim; “Thistle,” a ballad that finds a woman begging her father not to force her to marry a man she doesn’t love; and “Look Out On The Mountain,” where a mother is trying to convince her daughter and herself that her husband isn’t drinking again while she’s dying of a fever.
“Greenbriar County” is about men who work in limestone quarries and coal mines; “The Blight” is about dying chestnut trees; “Evelyn” finds a man realizing the toll his work and all the towns they’ve lived in is taking on his wife; and “Build You A House” is a poor man’s promise of what he’ll do if the woman he loves will marry him.
“One Notch Tighter” is about tightening belts during hard times and a promise that “hard times can’t last forever” and “we’ll get by”; and “He’s A Free Man” tells the story of a sharecropper’s son who lies about his age to join the Army for money to send home to his mother and his siblings.
The one non-story original song is “Cowgirl Yodel #3,” a bouncy fun song that gives Struthers a chance to yodel — a skill that’s becoming increasingly rare these days.
According to her biography, Struthers grew up singing with her father Alan, a veteran of a Minneapolis bluegrass band. But she trained classically and performed in New York as a folk-rock musician.
This isn’t really a bluegrass album, but it’s an album most bluegrass fans will enjoy.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.NoraJaneStruthers.com.