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Reviews

Low Lily Low Lily
Album: 10,000 Days Like These
Label: Mad River
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.lowliy.com

The New England-based trio Low Lily's last appearance on this site was with their eponymous six-track EP back in October 2015, which marked both a name change (from Annalivia) and a lineup change (bringing into the trio fiddle-singer Lissa Schneckenburger alongside original members Liz Simmons and Flynn Cohen). I praised the trio's deftly understated virtuosity, tight arrangements, freshness of sound and clarity of musical vision, and these qualities are still present in abundance on 10,000 Days Like These, the trio's long-awaited (yes, it sometimes feels like that long!) followup record.

The overall feel is once again that of a team of accomplished singer-musicians who get along just great and really get off on sharing the music. They trade ideas off each other with ease yet aren't afraid to get playful and take chances within their unashamed, natural folk-Appalachian-roots-bluegrass idiom. They also happily take under their wing any good song or tune whatever its provenance: Flynn turns in a very persuasive account of Mark Knopfler's Brothers In Arms, for instance, while Lissa delivers the perhaps more expected (but still very welcome) oldtime-gospel-style Rock Of Ages (by Gillian Welch) and Liz kicks the album off with an interestingly "Americanised" rewrite of the traditional ballad Sovay. The latter sports a sparky, oddly skipping new musical setting by Liz herself, much in the jazzy-experimental spirit of early Pentangle, and is one of five cuts where Liz takes the lead vocal and showcases the very special qualities of delicacy and precision that shine through in her voice - it quite literally gets you right there and stops you in your tracks (if you sense what I mean). I especially liked Full Grown Love (co-written by Aram Sinnreich and Flynn) and the album's title song (co-written by Liz herself and Sarah Yanni, much in the fashion of a shape-note-styled modern-day spiritual), but there's also the gorgeous Dark Skies Again (another from Sarah's talented pen) to be richly commended en passant. In addition to being an ace fiddle player, Lissa's also a charismatic singer, as she proves on Rock Of Ages and her own chirpy Good, Bad, Better, but she cedes to Liz the principal melody part on her rousing handclap-led a cappella plea for peace Hope Lingers On so that she and Flynn (and Stefan) can supply the energised full-on harmonies. This latter track is an album standout, although to be fair the trio's great harmony singing is a constant throughout the disc, just as on Low Lily's earlier EP.

Flynn takes his share of the vocal leads too, on Brothers In Arms and the curiously-themed Rushad Eggleston number The Grumblinoby One. On these (indeed, on all but two of the tracks), the Low Lily trio's guitars, fiddle and mandolin are underpinned by upright bass from Corey DiMario (of Crooked Still), and they're further augmented on occasion by Stefan Amidon (drums), Duncan Wickel (cello), Charlie Van Kirk (percussion) and either Dirk Powell or Greg Liszt (banjo). The disc's two instrumentals are commendably authentic: Single Girl is a solo fiddle realisation by Lissa of her own (decidedly old-timey) tune, whereas The Good Part (written by Flynn) is a bright-eyed, upbeat trad-bluegrasser featuring Flynn's nifty mandolin.

This is another of those albums you just don't want to end, and its hallmarks (a delectable precision of delivery and an intimate and inclusive presence) are stamped right through with exuberant yet impeccable musicianship.

David Kidman