Some Strange Country
You can get a good reading on the ravages of time by comparing versions of “Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)” as performed by Johnny Cash for his most recent posthumous album, and that same song as done by Crooked Still for their 2006 album, Shaken by a Low Sound. (Crooked Still’s version played over the credits of the HBO vampire/noir series, True Blood.) When they do the song, it is so vital it sounds like they could actually pull off defying death. Cash’s version, on the other hand, makes plain that though the singer may not go gentle into that good night, there ain’t no doubt that’s he’s going. Crooked Still played an extraordinary show at the Sierra Nevada Big Room a little over a year ago, and this latest CD will create new fans for these stellar players. Aoife O’Donovan’s velvet vocals create an aural texture that plays nicely against the vinegary sound of Gregory Liszt’s banjo picking. Brittany Haas adds fiddle, and the cello and double bass accompaniment makes this group a bluegrass/chamber music hybrid. I like Shaken by a Low Sound better, but Some Strange Country is a welcome addition to the band’s discography.