By Dennis Roger Reed

susieglaze small.jpgSusie Glaze is relatively new to the Southern California bluegrass scene, but her rise to the ranks of nationally known talent has been fairly well documented here in the pages of FolkWorks. Glaze was raised in Tennessee, and first chose the artistic path of theater. After some success in the New York stage scene, she discovered a love for bluegrass music and moved to California. First she became a member of The Eight Hand String Band, and then began her solo career. Green Kentucky Blues is her fourth solo project, and most likely the one that folks will look back to as her "breakout" recording. Don't be surprised if Green Kentucky Blues finds its way to a nomination at IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) music awards.

Where Green Kentucky Blues is not a major conceptual change from Glaze's prior work, it builds upon the formula established in her earlier recordings. This time around, Glaze enlisted a "who's who" of bluegrass talent, beginning with producer Laurie Lewis, who also lends her musical and songwriting talents to the mix. The musicians working the project include Bill Bryson on bass; Dennis Caplinger on fiddle; Rob Carlson on guitar; Rick Cunha on vocals and steel guitar; Lewis on fiddle and vocals; Herb Pedersen on guitar; Tom Rozum on mandolin and vocals; Patrick Sauber on banjo; Tom Sauber on fiddle; and Mike Witcher on resophonic guitar. Superstar musicians do not guarantee a great recording, but in this case they guarantee that the excellent material and Glaze's performances are accompanied both professionally and passionately.

Glaze has a mentor in Jean Ritchie, and includes Ritchie's best known song, The L&N Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, and two more of Ritchie's tunes. Glaze has also been a champion of local bluegrass songwriter Rob Carlson, and includes seven of his tunes, two of which were co-written with Lewis. With twelve songs on the project, that leaves Iris Dement's Hotter than Mojave In My Heart and Bob Dylan's Lay Down Your Weary Tune as the last two pieces.

Although the vocal harmonies and the overall arrangement of Dylan's tune are incredible, and the covers of Dement and Ritchie's tunes are well done, it's Carlson's songs that are the bread and butter of the project. The title tune may well be in the repertoire of a lot of festival parking lot pickers this summer. Two other standouts are Albuquerque and I Only Dream of You. Glaze hasn't tackled western swing on her past recordings, but her voice is well suited for this genre, and Carlson's melody and lyrics for Albuquerque not only pay tribute to swing, but capture the genre's fun based sound quite readily. "Albuquerque is a word that rhymes with turkey" is a line Bob Wills would've loved.

Carlson's I Only Dream of You has all the components of a country standard. Rick Cunha does the male voice in this duet, and he and Glaze present a story of love lost and the loneliness that ensues. Cunha and Glaze's voice blend and intertwine quite well. And Carlson's melody and the tag line are the sort that stick in your brain. Someone should help Tim and Faith about this song.

Lewis' production brings out the best in Glaze. Glaze and her husband Steve Rankin share co-production credits, and Rick Cunha carries the recording credit. This is major league, pristine sound quality.

As the keynote speaker at a mid-1990s IBMA convention, Marty Stuart spoke eloquently about the need to recognize tradition in bluegrass music, but not to be bound by it. Stuart spoke to the need for new material. "Rocky Top is a great song, but we've all heard it many times," said Stuart. With Green Kentucky Blues, Glaze not only honors tradition in embracing Ritchie's songs, but also brings solid, fresh new material in Carlson's songs. It's the best of both worlds.

Green Kentucky Blues is a fine project that should help propel Susie Glaze into the starting lineup at bluegrass festivals nationwide.

Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He's released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard's and Paul Simon's revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.