SALLY LOVE AND GARY FERGUSON
"Our Old Home"
JUNIOR BARBER AND GARY FERGUSON
"Stuff That Works"
Gunny Sack Music
The new releases by veteran bluegrass singer-songwriter and guitarist Gary Ferguson suffer from a common problem. Averaging 40 minutes each, they don't last nearly long enough. But the pleasures they offer linger, partly because Ferguson chooses songs with the same care that he composes them, and partly because both discs are the products of inspired collaborations.
"Our Old Home," featuring vocalist Sally Love, is one of those musical matches that appear both natural and remarkable at the same time. The duo's voices consistently complement each other in unfussy, soulful ways, and the songs they've chosen to record together, both original and familiar tunes, consistently underscore their compatibility. The songs borrowed and blue include Hank Williams's "Alone and Forsaken," which boasts some stirring harmonies; Ryan Adams's "In My Time of Need," a melancholy ballad graced by Love's tender soprano; and "Caleb Meyer," a country noir tale penned by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Ferguson's contributions help sustain the impressive song quality, and the music is further enhanced by a well-matched cast of players, including guitarist-mandolinist Emory Lester, banjoist Mike Mumford and bassist Ronnie Simpkins.
"Stuff That Works" finds Ferguson teamed up with Junior Barber, who plays a variety of slide guitars -- dobro, Hawaiian lap and the homemade variety -- with blues-tinged eloquence. It seems only fitting that the album should open with its title track, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell's celebration of the simple and sturdy things in life, since what follows is a collection of tunes that have stood the test of time, including a shimmering instrumental reprise of the Kitty Wells charmer "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" and Ferguson's elegiac coda, "Last Day at Gettysburg."
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Sunday at Jammin' Java. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Sally Love and Gary Ferguson, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8107; to hear Junior Barber and Gary Ferguson, press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)