Raven Moon: Raven Blue

Sometimes it’s the small pleasures in music that really matter, and Raven Moon serves up a whole platterful of those on Raven Blue.

Raven Moon’s new CD has one of the most striking cover photos I’ve ever seen on a local release. It’s a huge crescent moon behind a silhouette of bare tree branches against a pale purple sky, with a small blue raven image inserted in the center. Guitarist Gen Obata created this photo, and as someone who tends to notice these things, I want to just say, “Very nice packaging, guys.” The music on Raven Blue isn’t quite so mysterious, but it’s definitely the equal of their work on Endless Highway, their debut.

There’s the playful “Pan American Boogie,” which is as smooth as fine whisky (with Tom Murphy’s mandolin especially beguiling); the lilting “Blue Kentucky Girl,” one of Christine Peick’s purest vocal performances; a sweetly low-key cover of Gillian Welch’s “Clay Halo”; a more-authentic-than-expected take on Bill Monroe’s “Walls of Time” (Obata sings lead on this one, and the harmonies are especially nice); and one of the album’s real highlights, “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which finds Peick turning in another delightfully sassy vocal and the whole band hitting their enthusiastic stride. Being partial to instrumental stuff, I also thoroughly enjoyed “Cherokee Shuffle,” “Frosty Morning,” and “Foggy Mountain Special”; Obata’s guitar playing really stands out on these tracks, and John Higgins’ fiddle and Bob Lucas’ banjo ain’t too shabby, either. “Foggy” has a particularly appealing sparkle to it and is probably one of the finest performances Raven Moon has committed to disc.

The Raven folks aren’t going to win any contests for originality, and the energy of their performances does seem to fluctuate from tune to tune. But they provide a more-than-pleasant listen, showing real respect for the classic old tunes they choose to perform and generally playing with the kind of precision that good bluegrass requires. Sometimes it’s the small pleasures in music that really matter, and Raven Moon serves up a whole platterful of those on Raven Blue. Their selection of cover tunes (and that lovely cover itself!) is among them. For more info, see www.ravenmoonband.com.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply