Al Petteway & Amy White

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Editorial Review

Album review: "High in the Blue Ridge"

Scenic view, anyone? Multi-instrumentalists Al Petteway and Amy White, who recently contributed music to the Ken Burns PBS documentary "The National Parks - America's Best Idea," conjure their own ode to natural wonders on "High in the Blue Ridge," a pitch-perfect southern Appalachian travelogue.

Recipients of about 50 Washington Area Music Association Awards, the couple live in the Asheville, N.C., area, grateful for their good fortune.

"High in the Blue Ridge" is a song cycle of sorts, an evocative mix of original and traditional tunes that sound both rooted and timeless. Beginning with "Up on Flat Top Mountain," which pairs Petteway's banjo with White's mountain dulcimer, the arrangements are spare and soulful, unhurried and often haunting.

Not surprisingly, some of the most vivid musical portraits here mimic the landscape. White's "The Drovers' Road," for example, was inspired by an old livestock route, described in the liner notes as "serpentine and switchbacked, hugging the hillsides along steep stream gorges, occasionally breaking out into wide open vistas with views of the mountains beyond."

Still, there's much to be said for the nostalgic glow that illuminates "The Last Waltz," with its shimmering weave of acoustic guitar (Petteway) and mandolin (White), and "The Parting Glass," a showcase for White's ethereal voice.

- Mike Joyce, March 2011