Adrienne Young | The Art of Virtue (AddieBelle Records)

Young’s “Walls of Jericho” alludes to the Book of Joshua, to be sure, and religious elements inform “It’s All the Same” (whose anti-war message would otherwise melt the iPod of Christian in Chief George W. Bush).

 

Arguably one of the most charismatic performers to debut in roots music in the past few years, singer/songwriter Adrienne Young continues to amaze with her sophomore effort, The Art of Virtue. To those unfamiliar with Young, a measure of such amazement will likely greet the inspiration for the title cut and “It’s All the Same,” the third of three co-writes here between her and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough: Benjamin Franklin. If far too many contemporary musicians in whatever genre know the Boston-born polymath only from dimming memories of history lessons and his portrait on the century note, though, that should only emphasize the singularity of Young, who also plays clawhammer banjo, guitar, and spoons on the disc at hand. In her music and, apparently, her life, the youthful Floridian (lately transplanted to Nashville) mingles the earthly and the heavenly in a breathtaking way.

At the hint of anything spiritual, of course, some readers will balk. They oughtn’t. Young’s “Walls of Jericho” alludes to the Book of Joshua, to be sure, and religious elements inform “It’s All the Same” (whose anti-war message would otherwise melt the iPod of Christian in Chief George W. Bush). Elsewhere, however, The Art of Virtue features “Pretty Ella Arkansas,” a common love song that’s anything but; “Rastus Russell,” a murder ballad co-written with Mark D. Sanders and based on reminiscences from Young’s grandfather, who helped arrest the titular killer; and her and Sanders’ “Wedding Ring,” which opens, “I went downtown to the jewelry store/Just a window shopping, that’s all/Lady asked me what I was lookin for/I said ‘a fella ’bout six feet tall.’” The disc’s covers also range widely, from the traditional “Bonaparte’s Retreat” to the Grateful Dead standard “Brokedown Palace.” Pigeonholing Young, in short, would qualify as an act of monumental stupidity. Extraordinary.

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