Liz Austin “For the Country Record” Review

Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band blends classic folk with edgy stories of tragedy and fate, all with excellent instrumentation and superb vocals from Susie Glaze. Winner of the Just Plain Folks 2006 Music Award for Best Roots Album for their debut album ‘Blue Eyed Darlin’, The Hilonesome band is Steve Rankin on mandolin (and vocals), Rob Carlson on guitar and dobro, Fred Sanders on bass and Mark Indictor on fiddle. The LA band has appeared at many premiere venues and festivals on the West Coast, including Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, McCabe’s Guitar Shop, The Broad Stage, the Hollywood Bowl, and CalTech Folk Music Society. You can tell the band has a passion for the American root traditions in their innovative music. The listener will find a blend of Celtic folk, bluegrass and honky tonk country on this record. The vocals and instrumentation are stellar and really enhance the creative lyrical stories.

The album opens with the instrumental track, “Independence”. The production features guitars and fiddles, with the fiddle having the larger presence. The song really shows off the fiddle’s range and Mark Indictor’s stunning work on the instrument. It’s a soulful Irish jig mixed with Kentucky mountain music, written by band member, Rob Carlson. Another Carlson tune is the down home “Not That Kind of Girl”. The track crosses honky tonk country with bluegrass instruments, and features sassy vocals from Glaze. The narrator is basically telling a guy that she’s not that kind of girl and that he’s better off finding someone else.

“Don’t Resist Me” is a humorous song with a fresh take on celebrity stalking and romance; the tune has a happy-go-lucky feel to it. I particularly liked the mandolin on this track and the verses, “God made the mountain/ Only God shall tear it down”. “That’s How I Learned To Sing the Blues” is a bluesy folk number that has Steve Rankin taking the lead, vocally. Rankin sings, “Find a good gal and treat her wrong/ Then feel sorry ‘bout it when she’s gone/ You’ll beg her back but she’ll refuse/ That’s how I learned to play the blues.” It’s a really fresh, cool sounding song.

The standouts on this album are “Dens of Yarrow”, “Heartland”, and “The Mountain”. “Dens of Yarrow” is another Celtic flavored track, featuring a soft fiddle and stunning vocals by Glaze. This song is truly about the vocal performance, it’s absolutely beautiful. Written by Denise Hagan, “Heartland” is about hardship and grace. The stirring vocal performance by Glaze is excellent; her voice sounds like it was made to sing Irish songs. Covering this track was pure brilliance on the band’s part. The instant classic, “The Mountain” was written by Rob Carlson and features driving guitar and fiddle work. It’s a lyrical story of turmoil and loss in the heartland mountains, told through passionate vocals by Glaze.

The album concludes on an upbeat note with “Never Give Up”. It’s a driving folk tune with the guitar front and center. Glaze sums up the theme of the song with “Never give up and never slow down/ And never go round/ Never complain and never explain/ and never give up.”

This is truly an excellent folk/roots album, a must for anyone’s music collection. The instrumentation is expertly done, the vocals are stellar, and the stories vivid and real.

Liz Austin