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CD REVIEW: Blue Line Highway - A Perfect Curve
By Chip Withrow - 08/04/2008 - 10:35 AM EDT

Artist: Band: Blue Line Highway
Album: A Perfect Curve
Genre: Americana, Folk, Acoustic
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: 3 Ways to Go, Sunshine, Sunday Shoes
CD Review: It has been just over a year since I reviewed this band’s previous album, Life In a Minor Key, and I’m glad Blue Line Highway is back. With A Perfect Curve, this mainly acoustic band has crafted, a vibrant, eclectic and occasionally electric release.

“Run Run Run” and “Billy” are a propulsive one-two punch to open the disc. “Run” stretches out, with some cool interplay between guitarist John Leedes and Doug Austin on mandolin. “Billy” is minor-key and eerie, and the harmonizing between Julia Dooley and Melissa McKinney is mournfully beautiful. McKenna’s gift as a lyricist is also on display on these numbers.

The bluesy “3 Ways To Go” and “All My Bros Blues,” both penned by Dooley, remind me of the work of one of my favorites, Jim Croce. “Sunshine” is a shiny songwriting contribution from Leedes, sort of like ‘60s folk-rock yet played with acoustic breeziness.

Leedes nails his stringwork on “Sunshine” and lends tasty electric slide to “Bros Blues.” He is a deft and versatile picker throughout the disc – understated and elegant, with well-placed dazzling flashes, like Jerry Garcia.

“Sunday Shoes” is a nifty, bluegrassy folk rocker. McKenna’s lyrics are nostalgic and delightful, and on this one Austin trades fiddle runs with Leedes’ unusual electric guitar lines. The powerful “Snow Line” pounds with Steve Earle-like intensity – this time it’s Leedes adding backing vocals behind Dooley, and his playing shreds.

“Ridin the Sun” is a snaky departure, jazzy with Latin-like percussion. Dooley’s sultry lead vocal is one of the band’s most striking qualities, and it is in its full glory here. And after the stretched-out, jazzy/trippy “Fan Man,” the airy “White Winter Blues” brings the disc to a gentle yet haunting conclusion.

Blue Line Highway’s A Perfect Curve combines traditional acoustic/bluegrass sensibilities with jammy, rocking adventurousness. It’s a worthy follow-up to the offering I reviewed last year.

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