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Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum
Guest House

Review By Steven Stone
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Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum Guest House

CD Number: Hightone Records HCD 8167 


  Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum have been musical partners for close to 20 years. Here, on their first Hightone release, they show why they are regarded by bluegrass intelligencia as the finest co-ed duo in the business.  Just listen to how they take the traditional Woody Guthrie tune "Pretty Boy Floyd" and reinterpret it into a contemporary cautionary tale. I love the line "A gun will serve its master and the master serve his time." I also admire the way they handle vocal parts. Tom switches to the lead during the chorus, thus allowing Laurie to soar on the high tenor part.

Guest artists Todd Sickafoose on string bass, Craig Smith and Todd Sauber on banjo, Scott Huffman and Nina Gerber on guitar, Mike Marshall on mandocello and guitar, join Laurie on vocals, fiddle and guitar, and Tom on vocals, mandolin, mandola and guitar on this all-acoustic effort. Tunes by Liz Meyer, Hazel Dickens, Claudia Schmidt, Si Kahn, Slim Willet, Kate McLeod, and Jim Ringer join three originals and two arrangements of traditional numbers to complete the song roster. Although the sources span a wide musical gamut, Laurie and Tom manage to bridge the expanse easily, all the while making each selection uniquely their own.  I especially enjoyed their rendition of Slim Willet's "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes." Even with traditional bluegrass orchestration they bring out the special Tejano/swing aspects of the song.

Recorded primarily at the Tomland studios in Pacheco, California, engineer Tom Size captures the acoustic instruments' sparkle and dynamic bounce. On the a capella selection "Quiet Hills" written by Claudia Schmidt, Lewis' and Rozum's voices walk the sonic tightrope of sounding sweet, yet retaining the necessary stridency to make the song work.

It's all too easy to run out of superlatives that properly describe the sublimity of Guest House. It's simply too good for words.




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