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Jeb BarryJeb Barry
Album: Milltown
Label: DollyRocker
Tracks: 15

Kramer first made waves as part of the North Carolina all-female Appalachian styled trio the Barrel House Mamas before releasing her solo debut, 'Break & Bloom', in 2013. That was recorded during her four years in Oregon, since when she's returned to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains for this follow-up, enlisting an assortment of local players to lend a hand, among them fiddler Nicky Sanders from the Steep Canyon Rangers, bluebrass multi-instrumentalists Pace Conner and Michael Evers and Sirius B cellist Franklin Keel.

Featuring a fine cover of Tom Petty's 'Down South' that features mandolin and draws out the song's 'Love Minus Zero' Dylan influence, again it's a collection of Americana with songs that both look inward and draw on her experiences as a social worker for lyrics that talk of both dark regret and, as the title suggests, the determination to keep on keeping on.

The album's bookends set the musical landscape, opening with the uptempo western-swing of 'Half Way Gone' and closing on the self-examining jaunty bluegrass gospel of 'My Dusty Wings'. Naturally, given the milieu, there's songs variously involving hearts, bars, restless souls, the call of the road and the life of the travelling musician ('Truth Tellin' Eyes', 'Highways, Rivers & Scars' and 'Truck Stop Stars') while country roots are further emphasised in the Dolly Parton echoing title track, the banjo bubbling 'Your Ever-Green Heart' and slow waltzing confessional 'Good Woman', a song she describes as the sort of thing you write "when your lover kicks you out of the house and you're half drunk on cheap box wine in a crappy motel room staring at yourself in the mirror." By way of musical diversion 'Why'd I Do That Blues' colours things with some fat New Orleans horns. I'm not persuaded there's anything sufficiently outstanding enough here to spark an international breakout, but Kramer's carnival rides have an undeniably strong fairground attraction.

Mike Davies