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Mary LaRose: The Blue Guitar

There are precious few jazz licks lurking among the dozen tracks here, yet the album deserves attention because it features an established jazz singer whose previous releases include bop-flavored explorations of Ornette Coleman and Mingus plus the vocalese of Jon Hendricks. This, her fourth album, is a highly personal tribute to her father who worked on the railroad and played a blue Stella guitar. LaRose tries to capture the essence of country music by exploring Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie and some minimalistic Shaker music.

With Mary at the controls, it becomes (to quote LaRose) an “avant-rootsy” trip; she shows her uninhibited wacky side in “The Vision Song,” creating the kind of sounds you’d capture from a 7-year-old unaware she was being recorded; “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” occasionally sounds bi-tonal; “We’ve Been Working On the Railroad,” inexplicably begins in a minor mode. Good bass clarinet playing by her hubby, Jeff Lederer, but wait ’til the vocal pas de deux with him on the Archie Shepp line, “Rufus.” Recommended only for lovers of nonsense, country-folk-storytelling, Shaker music and Ledheads.

Originally Published