Vignola and Raniolo’s dual acoustic guitars blend like espresso and gelato. From the first notes of “It Might As Well Be Spring,” the players leap with acrobatic precision from strummed triplets to descending diminished scale runs. On mellower takes—such as a medley of “Misty,” “Young at Heart” and “What a Wonderful World”—Vignola and Raniolo recall the frisky interplay of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.
As Music City songwriters, Al Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin have penned hits for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Don Williams. Joined by bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer Greg Morrow, they rock and swing on the cheeky, Creedence-style stomp “Give Your Love to Me.” From the smoldering Cajun shuffle “Mamarita” to the lumbering blues lament “Ball and Chain,” this disc is joyous—sometimes shambling, sometimes galloping, always wearing its ragged edges proudly, as though channeling The Band at its prime.
Radney Foster pulls off a neat trick: a live re-recording of his first solo album from 20 years ago, Del Rio, Texas, 1959. In splendid voice and backed sublimely by 17 musicians, he treats us to sweet, West Texas nectar. From the funky electric piano of “Don’t Say Goodbye” to the acoustic guitar and Dobro jangle of “Nobody Wins,” Foster fashions a reboot that stands on its own merits.
Audrey Assad’s robust voice, which recalls Paula Cole, can climb from gentle to gutsy in the same song—as it does on the opener, “Blessed Are the Ones.” Heart is a sunny pop affair, and Assad expresses herself with unadorned simplicity. On the piano-driven title track, she asks, “Why should I be lonely? / Long for heaven and home / When Jesus is my portion / And a constant friend I know.” The closer, “New Song,” builds over five-plus minutes into a satisfying coda of longing and weariness turned to praise.
In this strange, insightful and layered little book, Elaine Scarry argues that Clinton Rossiter was right: the nuclear age means a state of "chronic emergency."