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Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms
Album: Innocent Road
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 14

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Klauder and Willms are an old time string band bluegrass duo, with the former on mandolin and them both sharing vocals and acoustic guitar. Following on from 2012 duo debut "Oh Do You Remember", this, ensconced in a nifty fold out cardboard sleeve, is their second album, this time round fleshed out with upright bass, drums, six-string and medal steel and, playing fiddle on the bulk of the tracks, Sam Weiss.

Again there's some obscure old country songs, but also a clutch of Klauder originals, the album opening with "Coming On Strong", the first hit penned by 60s Tennessee country singer-songwriter, Little David Wilkins, here a mandolin and fiddle-led bluegrassy version rather than the more rock n roll Brenda Lee original. Again featuring frisky fiddle, the jaunty "Been On The Rocks" is the first of the Klauber numbers, followed in firmly honky tonk style with their pair sharing verses on the steel streaked "Last Time I Saw You".

Looking at the other originals, with a dance floor of pedal steel and Ned Folkerth's brushed snare, Caleb takes lead on the waltzing "You're The One", "New Shoes" is a goodtime string band shuffle, here with Jason Norris on fiddle, the duet "Just A Little Time" heads back to the honky tonk, while, mandolin to the fore and with a brief twangy guitar excursion, the last of his contributions is the farmlands country gospel "Innocent Road".

Returning to the covers, it's good to find a track by Nashville-based contemporary alt country songwriter Paul Burch, Reeb handling vocals on the sprightly "C'Est Le Moment" (aka "If You're Gonna Love Me"), Rusty Blake providing steel alongside fiddle and mandolin. Stepping back a fair few years, sung by Reeb, "Montana Cowboy" is a nimbly picked 40s tune by Jack Sutton, while 50s Western singer Bud Deckleman is the source for steel weeping honky tonk waltzer harmony duet "No One Dear But You", and, again from the 50s, the quickstepping "Chalk Up Another One" was a bluegrass hit for Jimmy Martin. Coming relatively more up to date, Reeb on vocals, "Stepping Stones" is another barroom waltz time number, this one written by Andrea Martin and Nathan Williams for a 1999 album by Grammy-winning California newgrass veteran Laurie Lewis.

The remaining two numbers, both of which feature Reeb, sport rather better known credits, "There Goes My Lover" a Buck Owens cover from 1962's "The Fabulous Country Music Sound of Buck Owens", while, borrowing the tune slightly from "Settin' The Woods On Fire", "I'd Jump The Mississippi", originally featured as a duet with Melba Montgomery on 1964 album "Bluegrass Hootenany", was written by the unlikely pairing of George Jones and Johnny Mathis.

Sounding both perkily fresh and as though it was itself plucked from the American roots archives, this is an absolute retro joy.

Mike Davies