Clay Parker and Jodi James, “The Lonesomest Sound that Can Sound” 

I’m not sure why I love this recording so much. We like to talk in superlatives whenever given a chance, and it’s not the best of anything, or the most skilled, or the most telling. It’s just, well, lovely. The voices are beautiful, the thoughts quietly moving. The playing doesn’t jump out at you, but rather sits back. Like a kid busking in the farmers market, it catches you as you walk past, turning your head with the thought, “hey, that’s pretty good.” It’s more than pretty good, actually. This is one of those albums that sparks a desire to participate within it, to grab a guitar or a mandolin and play along. It’s all new material, but so much of it sounds familiar, perhaps because they are participating in something, too. There are responses here to Woody Guthrie, Doc Watson, Willie Watson. The titles suggest connections to the canon, and I think that’s intentional: the gallows tree, Cumberland, the willow garden, the killing floor—the songs are like stepping stones added to an existing path. The arrangements are gorgeous, played with a skilled touch and handled with respect and wisdom. The lap steel in “Far Away” sneaks in like an afterthought, adding a welcome poignancy. The lyrics tell a lot, but don’t give anything away. Why is Katie’s sky full of blues? Well, that’s a good question, and one that you can get a bit lost in. And maybe that’s why I love this album so much. It doesn’t perform in front of you, asking for applause. Instead it sits next to you, like a friend who seems to know exactly what you’re about to say before you say it. They aren’t trying to make you feel better about things, rather just to let you know that you’re not alone. Which is why I don’t like the title. It’s actually about a shared experience, not an isolated one, full of voices, memories, and people just like you and me.


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