A Review of the Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum CD
"Guest House"

"Guest House"
by Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum

Copyright 2004
Hightone Records
220 4th Street #101
Oakland, CA 94607
ph: (510)-763-8500
fax: (510)-763-8558

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Laurie Lewis has been a member of bluegrass royalty for many years. Some say she is also 'newgrass.' Others add that she also encompasses country and folk. Her latest, with performing partner Tom Rozum, is splashes of all of these and a followup to their 1996 Grammy nominated release "The Oak and The Laurel."

This reviewer's forays into bluegrass hold the sole expectation of entertainment, without any anticipation of emotional content or connection. But that closed world was turned ajar here with a few of the selections.

The late Jim Ringer's "Tramps and Hawkers," Hazel Dickens' "Scars From An Old Love," Claudia Schmidt's "Quiet Hills" and Si Kahn's "Just A Lie" all register on the heart-o-meter.

Sung by Rozum, "Tramps and Hawkers,' like so many Irish and traditional U.K. songs, paints a picture of a young man lured away from his love by wondrous tales of the road:

"...I've watched the rise of light in the sky where the sun climbs out of the sea
Seen giants fall in mountains tall where the lumberman cut down the trees
I've played in the sand with the Gulf Coast wind, fell asleep in the grass tall and green..."

Unfortunately, by the time he eventually does return home, his love is no longer among the living.

Dickens' "Scars From An Old Love" has Lewis plaintively singing of the difficulty re-developing trust after being jilted:

"....The battle is over, and the victor has fled
Wounded and dying, one lonely heart bled
Then love sounds her bugle, playing that old sweet song
But the scars from an old love haven't quite all gone..."

"Quiet Hills" is performed a cappella, with Lewis on lead vocals. Touching upon darkness, sorrow, hope and healing, one could easily surmise it is a product of our current times. Claudia Schmidt wrote it in 1994.

Rozum sings "Just A Lie," Kahn's tale of life in the economic depression of the early 1930s. Like the 1950s are remembered as gold old days by many my parent's generation, Kahn destroys whatever myth anyone holds of the 30s as fine times:

"...No I don't say that everything was bad
There was some might good times that we had
But you can't spend the silver sun and moon
And you can't eat a lonesome fiddle tune..."

The title of the jittery and jumping opening cut "Willie Poor Boy" brought to mind the Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Down On The Corner" containing lyrics about 'Willie and the Poor Boys.' But there is no connection--only Willie is here.

The courtship of Bill Monroe's parents is set to music and brought to life as a tribute in "O My Malissa."

Lewis, Rozum and their gang close with three engaging fiddle tunes, "Wild Rose of the Mountain," The Devil Chased Me Around The Stump" and "Glory at the Meeting House."

There is plenty of pickin' to be enjoyed here, along with the aforementioned heart openers.

And the creativity streak extends into the liner notes which are not separate from but unfold as part of the primarily cardboard jewel box.

Laurie Lewis, on vocals, fiddle and guitar and Tom Rozum, on vocals, mandolin, mandola and guitar, are backed by Todd Sickafoose on string bass and vocals; Craig Smith on banjo and vocals; Scott Huffman on guitar; Nina Gerber on lead guitar; Mike Marshall on mandocello and guitar; and Tom Sauber on banjo.

Track List:

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