John Starling And Carolina Star Slidin' Home

My first indoctrination to bluegrass music came from Washington’s Seldom Scene. They approached the genre differently, covering rock tunes and defying tradition in inventive, unique ways. The real draw was the velvety smooth, softly smoked vocals of John Starling, who left the band he helped form in ’71 some six years later, returning to his medical practice. Coaxed out of retirement some 30 years later, Starling has released this lovely solo album to the waiting ears of an acutely deprived fan base. Starling’s original dissention with the band was always the distance Seldom Scene had travelled away from traditional country sounds. Two inspired solo albums (released in ’77 & ’79) underlined his allegiance to rootsier fare; Slidin’ Home emphasises this further. His band, Carolina Star, reunite SS alumni Mike Auldridge and Tom Gray. The band’s sound relies on the age-old staple of red-hot acoustic instrumentation and smooth harmonies. Heartfelt returns to songs cut earlier in his career, namely Jimmie Rodgers’ "Waitin’ For A Train” and Lowell George’s ‘Willin’,” are all the more poignant in their retelling. Yet it’s the sugar-sweet covers, like Gram Parson’s "In My Hour of Darkness” (with Emmylou guesting on vocals), that hit home the hardest, a true display of seasoned artists at their most relaxed and confident. It doesn’t get much smoother than Slidin’ Home. John Starling is every bit the master he always was; he could’ve taken these bases at a walk and still scored. (Rebel, www.rebelrecords.com) (Rebel Records)