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Alison Brown: Stolen Moments

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Written and performed in the “stolen moments” between her work as the head of American roots label Compass and as a new mother, banjoist Alison Brown’s new album offers 11 sweet and precisely metered slices of contemporary bluegrass, Celtic traditional music, light jazz and pop-country. Throughout, Brown and her excellent supporting band-featuring fiddler Stuart Duncan and mandolinist Sam Bush-showcase breathtaking speed, polish and clarity. Unfortunately, the gleam applied to each track can dull the excitement or, worse, make a track sound treacly; an overly sweet rendition of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” and the colorless “McIntyre Heads South” flirt with a blandness too light even for NPR. More resonant at a sprint, Brown and company get rambunctious in the addictive “The Sound of Summer Running” and the percussive, music-box teeter-totter of “Musette for a Palindrome.” Stolen Moments is certainly filled with life, but the CD is at its best when it shelves its motherly caution.