By Hannah Smalltree
spotlight@seacoastonline.com

Bluesy acoustic guitar, endearing gravelly vocals and clever lyrics blend delightfully in a new compact disc release from the South Berwick-based, folk duo Late Bloomers. "Sneakin'; in the Back Door" includes instrumental and vocal tracks with folk, blues, jazz and ragtime undertones. The musicianship is excellent, as would be expected from a pair that met at Berklee College of Music.

Brett Kinney plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar or piano, while Randy Browning sings and plays acoustic guitar, slide guitar and even banjo on a few tracks. There's some impressive picking, especially on their pairing and arrangement of two traditional favorites on track 5, "Lowlands of Holland/Southwind."

Though their instrumental reinterpretations are stellar, after a few listens I found myself looking forward to the original vocal compositions. Browning's voice is low, wonderfully husky and richly toned, reminiscent of Greg Brown, Peter Mulvey or Dave Gerard.

The lyrics were an unexpected surprise, intelligent, insightful and humorous. Track 6, "Tina Came to Dance," is simply waiting to be discovered by folk show DJs and dancing women everywhere: "She dips her shoulder/she slides her feet/She may have lost her partner/but she never missed a beat."

The title track, "Sneakin' in the Back Door" is catchy and folky, setting the pace for a recording that is both classic and contemporary in feel. The tracks range in subject matter, from the lighthearted rag "Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" to a more introspective "Rodeo Clown" and the political and poetic, "Long Way To Go." The liner notes have all the lyrics, as well as some additional song notes, and reveal the heartfelt and charming musicians behind the songs.

Overall, "Sneakin'; in the Back Door" from Late Bloomers is a gem. Their respective guitar skills and Browning's notable voice make this recording a standout and highly recommended.

 

Order the CD at www.latebloomermusic.com. Upcoming shows Feb 28, Lighthouse Café, Danvers, Mass. 7:30 p.m.; March 8, Colonial Inn, Concord, Mass., 9 p.m.; April 11, Parish Center for the Arts, Westford, Mass., 9 p.m.

Hannah Smalltree is the daughter of a "famous" folk DJ, which means she's well-suited for her current un-lucrative career as a part-time musician and freelance writer. She can be reached at hannahsmalltree@comcast.net.

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