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This review comes from the ever-observant Chuck Ginsberg of Foster’s Daily Democrat in Dover NH.
“The Great Sad River is Woodpecker Records’ 15th recording, a moodbending collaboration between acoustic string virtuoso Harvey Reid and singer/fiddler Joyce Andersen. The 14 cuts share several things: impeccable performance, 24-bit high-resolution digital quality, the legendary Reid attention to detail, and a sparseness that envelops the listener from the opening note throughout. Both artists have played bluegrass for years, but intimations and intonations of Celtic and coastal Maine blend seamlessly.
Reid displays his mastery of the stringed instrument with the mandocello, guitars, autoharp, banjo and bottleneck; Andersen is his equal with violin and viola. On the 12 vocal selections, the pair sound like a match made in musical heaven: deep (Harvey), sweet (Joyce), and doleful, edgy, lilting, always in step. The menu includes six Reid originals, a Scottish ballad, a gospel classic, a "hip-folk" Andersen original, and covers of an unreleased Bob Dylan song, an early grunge-rocker Pete Droge effort, a heartbreaker from Canadian David Francey, and a classic from Jesse Winchester.
The centerpiece is "The Wreck of the Isidore," an epic 7-minute recounting of a 19th century barque shipwreck off the coast of Cape Neddick. (It is one of a trilogy about local maritime history on the album...) In our view, this one will go down as a classic, collected and covered wherever the sea is evoked in song. Not your ordinary shipwreck tale.
It’s hard to pick a favorite from such an embarrassment of riches. Any choice is merely personal since the album contains no apparent blemishes. David Francey’s heartrending "Torn Screen Door" sounds better than the original and Francey’s is itself a damned fine jerker of tears.
Dylan’s "Well Well Well" proves once and for all the legend should leave the singing to others; in this case, Andersen’s lead vocals are, unsurprisingly, spectacular.
With Andersen and Reid harmonizing, Droge’s "The Fourth of July" never sounded so good, and never will again. Reid’s strings jump in sprightly renditions on both his instrumentals, "Home Again (From Foreign Lands)" and "The Road to Hiram."
Winchester’s "Mississippi You’re on My Mind" evokes reminders of "Torn Screen Door," poverty, the hard scrabble life, and pain, amid the cloying humidity of the rural Deep South.
The two traditional ballads closing out the album are wistful, soft, sweet, and sublime. Close your eyes and listen, especially to the last cut, "Farther Along."
The Great Sad River takes its rightful place at the top of the Harvey Reid pantheon of prodigious efforts, both in concept and execution. Despite its often mournful subject matter, the only word to describe the album is "exquisite." If you’ve missed this one, rectify the situation soonest.”