It seems that a collaboration between three of Kentucky’s finest musicians would have to be a bluegrass record. Not true, as Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore’s Dear Companion proves.
While there is some twang involved in the set of eleven tunes, production by Jim James (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk) adds a rock edge to their Appalachian heritage.
Singing about their home state in a plea for the mountains and communities devastated by the practice of mountain top removal coal mining, they wisely steer away from preaching. Instead the songs are more universal and even humble as in the acknowledgement that the album won’t cause the practice to come to a grinding halt in “Only a Song.” The goal is awareness through music, not necessarily immediate change.
The gentle alt-country swing of “Needn’t Say A Thing” and acoustic guitar in “Wilson Creek” is balanced by the complex harmonies, hints of mandolin and soulful cello work on “Sweet Marie” and the apologetic “Something, Somewhere, Sometime.”
Dashed with banjo, fiddle and something that sounds like wooden spoons, the title track is a dark, new-grass love song and as close as the record gets to that traditional holler sound.
Daniel’s finger-picking on “Flyrock Blues” sits next to Ben’s lush cello on “Flyrock Blues #2,” an instrumental take on the same tune that touches on the pain that mining can bring to an area.
The album comes to a close with the dreamy and hopeful “It Won’t Be Long” with warning in lines like “It won’t be long my dearest one/before the well worn way will have us all” and “whether days are bright or sorrow filled we’ll find our comfort in these hills” speak to a true love of their shared homeland.
To find out more about mountaintop removal mining visit Appalachian Voices.