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Published: 2004/04/27
by Matt Brockett

The Morning Glory Ramblers – Norman and Nancy Blake

Dualtone Records 1160

Make some lemonade, maybe grab a good book, and get out on the porch and into your favorite chair. Your perfect accompaniment: the old time country music of Norman and Nancy Blake's The Morning Glory Ramblers.

Most modern jamband fans are at least partially familiar with some of Norman's work, a fact of which that they are likely unaware. Ever heard Phish play "Ginseng Sullivan"? That's a Norman Blake original. Ever heard the String Cheese Incident's take on "Blackberry Blossom" or "Whiskey Before Breakfast"? Both of them are traditionals, but they were staples in the Blake catalog, with Norman actually releasing albums titled after the tunes. No doubt SCI's interest in these tunes are a result of Norman's influence on SCI's own flat picker, guitarist Bill Nershi.

The beautifully sung, heartfelt, and refreshingly sparse and simple tunes of The Morning Glory Ramblers tell the listener that Norman and Nancy are indeed a match made in heaven. They pick and sing together so impressively that their previous four duet albums have all received Grammy nominations, and this latest effort shines with the promise of continuing that streak.

It is their first duet release in eight years, and the past few years have kept them quite busy with the runaway success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which includes two Norman Blake selections, and the critically acclaimed Down From The Mountain/O Brother Tours. Their latest soundtrack contribution is featured in the film Cold Mountain, where they worked with producer T-Bone Burnett, who also produced the O Brother soundtrack.

The haunting "Men With Broken Hearts" closes the album, and it is the only tune that features Nancy solo on vocals, with a sort of, old time country rap, where she talks, rather than sings, and it is a perfect ending to an incredible piece of work. Norman and Nancy's style is music in one of its simplest and most beautifully timeless forms. In Norman's own words, most of the songs on the album are "so old they are new again."

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