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Mary Flower – Misery Loves Company

Yellow Dog Records

12 tracks: Time: 47:08

Fans of acoustic blues players John Hammond, Rory Block and Fiona Boyes will probably get the same sort of satisfaction when they listen to Misery Loves Company by Mary Flower.

Bouncing back and forth between covers and originals, Flower shines as an example of being a torchbearer of bringing traditional music into the public light. Residing in Portland, Oregon doesn’t seem to deter her from presenting songs enriched in the cultures of the Deep South.

This journalist remembers catching her set at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival a couple of years ago. It was the kind of stuff that went down well with some audience members, particularly those who closely aligned with a purist background.

As she has done with other releases, Flower continues to explore the finger-picking style of folk, Piedmont, ragtime and Delta blues. While no new ground may be broken here, it is a welcome sojourn into a rural America that we forgot existed.

While the greatest strengths are wrapping her guitar and lap slide guitar lines around this material, the collaborations with various guests gives the tracks an extra boost.

Harmonica player Curtis Salgado drops in to add his buttery harmonica lines to Muddy Waters’ “Hard Day Blues.” Guest singer LaRhonda Steele applies a sweet background vocal to the Gary Davis gospel churched “Goin to Sit Down On The Banks Of The River.” Her rendition of Son House’ “Death Letter Blues” personifies more of a Piedmont air then Delta menace.

While tackling the other acoustic treasures of players, Flower displays strong prowess in her own material. If you want a shot of ragtime, there’s the duet with Brian Oberlin in “Recession Rag” which can’t get any more authentic. And delving deep into the Piedmont rudiments of guitar seems to suit Mary best when she neatly picks her way through the instrumental “Jitters.”

Handling the production chores herself can be considered a great move. There is no over-production and the songs seem to be done in one or two takes.

Perhaps the best union is with Colin Linden who adds his haunting electric Dobro to Flower original “Way Down In The Bottom.” It’s as dark and depressing as the title implies and perhaps the most melancholic number on the CD.

But depression isn’t something Flower chooses to wallow in. It’s back to the Piedmont business as usual with snaky lap slide playing in Tampa Red’s “Boogie Woogie Dance” that ends too quickly before you begin to appreciate the tune in full. The weirdly titled “I’m Dreaming Of Your Demise” shows a humorous side of Flowers and Dave Frishberg’s piano is a nice added touch.
What you’re looking at is an easy and relaxed cd to listen too. James Mason’s violin lazily plays along to Mary’s gentle finger-picking in the slow lull of “Miss Delta.”

Listeners of acoustic-based blues will want to seek this record out. If you want a traditionalist take on things that doesn’t scream of electricity, then Mary Flower can be one of the best sources to turn too. If you check out her website, not only is she playing the normal club circuit in the Portland area, but she serves as an instructor for various music camps such as Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peach Ranch. It doesn’t come as a surprise as she is one of the best choices to look to when wanting to pursue a career in music that reeks of Americana and not coming out formulated in an attempt to being accepted by the mainstream. Thankfully Flower recognizes true traditions can save the day.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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