The Gloria Darlings – Come Home to Me – Seattle folk music and bluegrass duo

This duo, Pandi and Milly, bill themselves as “folk grass,” which I immediately took as one of those marketing ploys because, well isn’t all bluegrass fundamentally folk music? And then I heard this incredible album. This… friends… is “folk grass.” It’s beautiful. It sounds like something Sara Watkins would do, which is pretty high praise. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in this early 2014 (even though it was a mid 2013 release).

The opening line “Come Home to Me” sounds like one of the classics. “There will always be room for you in the house that is my heart…” It’s quaint, it’s country, and it’s bound to generate a legion of fans. The sound is endearing, the harmonies near perfection, and the final product feels both nostalgic and yet mysteriously “new.”

The following “You Done Me Wrong” has a Jessica Lea Mayfield charm to it. In fact, somewhat bizarrely both vocalists have the ability to sound like Mayfield at times. Their harmonies are great in this track too, but what makes it different is the attitude. It’s got some sass to it in all the right ways. It’s the kind of track that would make Dolly Parton herself proud of how country it is!

“Insomniac’s Lullaby” is another tragic country tune. It’s a bit more upbeat with a nice strong fiddle part. “I never sleep at night… gotta wait until it’s light…” It’s almost cliché to describe the contents of the song – essentially heartache frustrations – but it comes across as very genuine. There’s a real sense of love and dedication that comes through and the sweet harmonies of vocals and instrumentation really make the track cohere into a unique song.

[Spoiler Alert] “Ghost Girl” is not the sweet song of its beginning throughout. Haha. I’ll just leave this one right here and say you should listen to it.

“To Care about You” is one of the most Sara Watkins style tracks on the album. It’s about the privilege of being in a relationship. It’s evident that this was written from a genuine, healthy relational perspective. It’s, frankly, rare in country music to hear this. Instead of reflecting on heartbreak or overly romanticized love, it’s really about deep true love. “Clinging on the aftertaste of kisses…” is a vivid image for the song. The instrumentation is spare, but effective for delivering some heavy but sweet lyrics.

The toe-tapper “Jack of the Wood” has an old-time country flavor to it. It has a mythical, narrative element to it. The main character is a larger-than-life, moonshine-drinking legend. It’s a great story, fitting the classic bluegrass/folk genre that it follows. It sounds like the mountains feel.

While “Music Men” is another fiddle-heavy track that encourages dancing like a few that precede it, “Mermaid’s Song” is a subtle acoustic-guitar driven soft track, almost akin to a lullaby. It is, again mythical, referencing an oracle and a mermaid. The story is timeless and the harmonies are excellent. It’s a wonderfully romantic and endearing song.

The album finishes with the rousing, “I’m Gonna Love You One More Time,” a fittingly upbeat bluegrass song. Without seeing chord charts I can’t be sure, but I’m fairly certain this is written with a bluegrass chord formula. It could immediately fit in rotation at the local barn dance. The lyrics are a simple message of the “one last chance” for a relationship.

This album is great because of how it blends a few different styles into a real, genuine synthesis. Although most of the tracks are pretty traditional Appalachian music, there’s definitely no fault in that. The harmonies really make the album overall. This is a must listen, must own album for our readers who enjoy traditional country music and bluegrass.

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