The Oak And The Laurel

Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum
Rounder Records

WVA Program 95

Named the 1994 IBMA female vocalist of the year (an award which she had previously won in 1992) and the singer of the 1994 IBMA Song of the Year (Kate Long's "Who Will Watch the Home Place"), Laurie Lewis had created a tough act to follow in 1995 - a goal seemingly made even more unattainable since she and her band were involved in a serious auto accident in early 1994. However, Laurie's new collaboration with Tom Rozum, The Oak and the Laurel, may stand as her finest work to date. The duo is joined by their colleagues from Grant Street along with special guests such as Craig Smith, Nina Gerber and Mike Marshall.

Simply put, The Oak and the Laurel contains some of the most breath-takingly gorgeous vocals, capti-vating arrangements, sublime material and soulful picking ever put to wax. The project is laced with a strong old-timey feel. One reason for this traditional aura is the material which includes tunes from the songbag of the Carter Family ("My Dixie Darling" and "Texas Girl") and Don Stover ("Poor Country Boy"); however it mostly has to do with the duo's sparse accompaniments and emotionally-laden approach which decisively proves "less is more." Even contemporary songs such as David Olney's "Millionaire" become almost surreal with just Tom on mandolin, Laurie on the fiddle and Mike Marshall on guitar.

Laurie and Tom also cover a Louvin Brothers tune ("My Baby Came Back"), an Everly Brothers song ("So Sad To Watch Good Love Go Bad") and a spine--tingling Peter Rowan number ("Dream Of A Home"). Laurie has penned two original numbers for the project -"Clark and Hazel" (a tune of true love and mutual respect) and the achingly lovely title track. And, of course, there’s plenty of Laurie's sweet fiddling, to~wit: her hard-driving version of "Tom and Jerry" which is paired with a playful vocal version of "Sleepy-Eyed John." The Oak and the Laurel is about as good as it can possibly get. But then again the same words were being spoken about Laurie's accomplishments in 1994.

Rounder Records, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140 (617-354-0700).

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: