Editors' pick

Dead Men's Hollow

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Editorial Review

DEAD MEN'S HOLLOW Album review: "Angels' Share"

Striking harmonies, solid songcraft, a gospel string band sound that evokes a blend of the traditional and the transcendent — small wonder that “Angels’ Share,” the new album by Dead Men’s Hollow, recently earned honors at the Wammies.

If the sextet’s name suggests an affection for moods more dire than spiritual, chalk it up to bedrock Celtic and Appalachian influences. “Angels’ Share,” the Washington band’s first bluegrass gospel album, primarily concerns folks seeking or serving a higher purpose, beginning with the banjo-propelled admonition “Satan Get Behind Me.” The song was written by rhythm guitarist Amy Nazarov, who contributes other highlights, including “Ballad of the Four Chaplains.”

The band, however, boasts several tunesmiths who capitalize on its distinctive and sometimes dovetailing mix of female and male voices. Banjoist Belinda Hardesty’s “Make Sure That You’re Right With the Lord,” fiddler Marcy Cochran’s “I’m Not Walkin’ Alone” and bassist Jared Creason’s “Prodigal Days” are prime examples, the last enlivened by fiddler Cochran’s sawtooth tone and aggressive rhythmic attack. Lead guitarist Mike Clayberg and mandolinist Caryn Fox also add colors and textures to the unflashy arrangements en route to the closing novelty, “Hallelujah,” an amusing send-off in more ways than one.

--Mike Joyce, April 15, 2011