BILL EMERSON AND SWEET DIXIE
Rural Rhythm Records
Along about track seven of this the fourth recording made for Rural Rhythm Records by Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie, the band hits a three-song stretch that gives the album a lift. Seven songs in might seem late in the tracking for such a run, but you take them where you find them, and moreover, it’s not that listening to the album to that point had caused suffering. Until the run, and indeed in the three closers, the music had been good, reminding the listener again what a fine and tuneful banjoist Emerson is and recalling the folk-tinged bluegrass style with which Emerson has long been associated.
“Dancin’ Annie,” written and sung by guitarist Chris Stifel, certainly has that sound, all light and airy. In a way, it has the same Gaelic, sing-song rhythm and quality of “Colleen Malone” and makes for a nice opener. That’s followed a couple tracks later by Pete Goble’s slow country ballad “Days When You Were Mine,” again with Stifel’s lead vocal blending perfectly with the material. The gospel tune “Will A Light Be Shining Bright” is also of note and is quite heavy in the ’70s sound of the Seldom Scene, particularly certain bass notes from Teri Chism.
Then we hit the three-song run. What had been a good sound becomes a very good sound, very tight and full of character. You can hear it right from the opening notes of “Two Hands On The Wheel.” The sound just comes together, and the energy leaps out of Chism’s lead vocals behind which the band crackles along. The effect is so striking that it’s startling. That’s followed by a gospel tune, “Thank Him For A Miracle,” and by the classic “Walkin’ After Midnight,” each as taut and engaging as “Two Hands…” After that the song quality recedes a bit, but for that three-song run, this pleasant recording rose to exceptional heights. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW