Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion
Being a direct descendant of Woody Guthrie and attempting to make your own mark in folk music is a difficult proposition. Wisely, Sarah Lee –the third generation removed– does not opt for enlightening our social consciousness and sticks to a more amiable and homespun Nashville-style of country/folk. Between Guthrie and her songwriting partner Johnny Irion, the duo have duets down to a science. Both “Swing of Things” and the closer “Gotta Prove” glitter and sway like classic Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers’ reconciliation numbers. However, when left to her own devices, as on “Holdin’ Back,” Guthrie slips too much adult contemporary into the mix and comes across like Natalie Merchant. Interestingly, it’s Irion’s writing that pushes the envelope. “Mornin’s Over” breezes by on Summer of Love fingerpicking, “Gervais” burns like Crazy Horse-era Neil Young and the title track even boasts some prog (!) overtones. Irion’s helium-high voice is a perfect enabler of this experimentation reveling in shades of the defunct Elephant 6 collective. Aptly named, Exploration reveals some interesting territory largely overlooked by the traditional country/folk community. Hopefully there’s more like this on the horizon.
New West Records: www.newwestrecords.com