About “ain’t that skippin’ & flyin’”

Robin Dale Ford has arrived at the crossroads with her new CD, “ain’t that skippin’ & flyin’.” Long a fan of both Appalachian banjo and modern singer-songwriters, she has successfully synthesized the two genres into something exciting and all her own.

Where her previous CD, “Down In My Heart” melded songs from the likes of Gene Clark and Bruce Springsteen into her “frailing” banjo style, “ain’t that skippin’ & flyin’” finds her incorporating this same style into modern rhythms and eleven of her own sublime tales exploring the search for peace in a world of contradictions. Nowhere is this more evident than in “Where I’m Bound,” in which the singer returns to the fields of a previous home to find it built over by office buildings and marvels at how quickly the deed was done:

Four hundred years to make a patchwork land
All the way ‘from sea to shining sea’
That’s but a moment in an ancient plan
it won’t be long, there’ll be nothing lift to see

And the children of our children
Will wonder what happened to our minds
How will we tell them that the money
Was worth more at the time

This frame of reference is continued throughout the album, from the wide view of “Soulful Hills” and “Nothing More Than Nothing” to the personal microcosms of “Only Myself to Blame” and “Falling into Grace.” The instrumentation is beautiful and uncluttered. Alex Clarke’s soulful slide guitar poignantly answers the lyrical phrases in “Strange News” and he also sits in on dobro for the almost-Bluegrass “He Can’t Wish on a Star.” Eric Graves and Forrest Gibson alternate on guitar and mandolin throughout the CD, injecting contagious, percussive energy. Grant Dermody adds harmonica on the rhythmic, rolling “Signs of Life” and Pat Fitzgerald’s tasteful percussion is superb. Most importantly, Robin’s vocals are right where they should be...up front and crystalline.

Bookended from the start by “Hangin' by a Wire,” about the need for faith, and ending with “Light In the Morning,” a ray of hope, “ain’t that skippin’ & flyin’” is a fine collection that focuses the question of life at the turn of the millennium down to the true source of the answer: the heart.

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