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A Durham resident for 15 years, Alice Gerrard came late to recording solo projects. Her first such release, Pieces of My Heart, appeared almost 30 years after the first Hazel and Alice album with Hazel Dickens. In between she recorded with The Strange Creek Singers and the Harmony Sisters, among other ensembles, and since with Tom, Brad & Alice. On the new Calling Me Home, Gerrard, founder of the Old-Time Herald quarterly, once again mixes her compositions with riches from her knowledge of Southern roots music. Whether new or old, these sad ones fit her style.

Gerrard's music blends old-time string band, bluegrass and traditional country sounds, generally in medium to slow tempos that fit the subject matter. The titles of originals like "Another Cheater (Just Lost the Game Again)"and covers like "Girl of Constant Sorrow" and the Louvins' "When I Stop Dreaming" suggest the space she explores. In so doing, Gerrard, a pioneer for women in bluegrass and old-time music, firmly establishes her place within the glorious country music tradition of sad love ballads, a living link between today's music and its roots.

Gerrard samples local and West Coast musicians for support, including former Carrboro resident Brad Leftwich along with Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, Eric & Suzy Thompson, Carl Jones, Leroy Savage and former Red Clay Ramblers Mike Craver and Jim Watson. This fine backing crew gives Gerrard the freedom to explore the emotional depths of each song. That may prove too real for those who prefer Britney Spears. For those in tune with genuine music made by actual folks, Calling Me Home: Songs of Love and Loss will delight from start to finish.

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