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Occasionally you hear a vocalist who can grab you after just a few bars of music. You immediately know they've got it. Carrie Hassler definitely ranks as a singer of this caliber. On her debut album, Carrie Hassler And Hard Rain, Hassler delivers songs with genuine hard-driving bluegrass intensity. She combines classical country lilt with a modern and muscular vocal style.
Produced by Mountain Heart's virtuoso fiddler Jim Van Cleve, And Hard Rain surrounds Hassler's lead vocals with a superb cast of supporting players. IBMA award-winner Adam Steffey plays mandolin, Clay Jones plays guitar, Josh Swift plays resophonic guitar, Travis Anderson plays bass, Steve Reece, Jim Locke, and Katie Kerkhover contribute background vocals, and Jim Van Cleve plays fiddle, guitars, strings, and mandolin. Some inexperienced lead vocalists might be intimidated or buried behind such a high-powered back-up band, but on Carrie Hassler And Hard Rain her powerful voice keeps pace with all her hired hands.
Perhaps Carrie Hassler also writes songs, but Carrie Hassler And Hard Rain concentrates on highlighting her singing. Tunes come from established sources such as Carter Stanley and Webb Pierce as well as less well known writers including Josh Miller, Mark Houser, Lisa Ray, and Tammy Griffin. But in every case, regardless of the creator, Carrie Hassler lives each song. Her vocal delivery is so assured that you never doubt for one second that Hassler owns that song. Even the often-recorded Webb Pierce classic "Leavin' on Your Mind" sounds both fresh and vibrant thanks to Hassler's assured vocal delivery.
Sonically And Hard Rain delivers the goods. Recorded at four different studios by Scotty Bolen, David Hall, and Jim Van Cleve, who also handled the mixing and editing, the recording has that perfect combination of clarity and warmth. The accapella song "Least That I Can Do" highlights this high fidelity. Even with four vocal parts hammering against each other the edges never blur or get muddy and the timbre remains natural. This is the sort of recording that sounds superb whether you listen through a $79 boom box or a $79K ultra-fi system.
If someone asked me for a short list of new bluegrass vocalists to add to their collection Carrie Hassler And Hard Rain would be on it. The lady can sure sing.