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Nora Jane Struthers (from the album Back to Cast Iron on Blue Pig Music) (by Lee Zimmerman)
When one has Neilson Hubbard sitting in the producer’s chair, the chances for success are that much greater. Just ask Mary Gauthier, Glen Phillips, Kim Richey, Amelia White, Garrison Starr, or, for that matter, any of the dozens of artists whose efforts he’s helmed.
That’s not to say Nora Jane Struthers, who secured Hubbard to sit behind the boards for her latest offering, can’t claim her own credit for this particular effort. After all, she proved that point early in her own career. Inspired by a trip to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival early on, she made it her mission to make music her life’s mission. Following a move to Nashville, she worked with a succession of bands and also performed with such Bluegrass luminares as Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan, and Bryan Sutton.
Ever since, Struthers has faithfully employed her music to confront the challenges and struggles spawned from life’s actual encounters. For example, “Back to Cast Iron”, the deliberative title track of the new album — and her sixth effort to date — was inspired by the stigma that still surrounds breastfeeding. It’s a particularly poignant entry, a single that followed on the heels of two earlier offerings, the quiet yet compelling “I Can Hear the Birds” and the lithe and loping “Is It Hope”. The first of these deals with the sudden anguish and isolation caused by politics and the pandemic, while the second takes the opposite tack by sharing a certain optimism, as bound in the belief that there are always possibilities for better times ahead.
The strength and satisfaction that works its way through each of the album’s offerings is particularly striking, especially considering the fact that those feelings are often at odds with a modern malaise. The jubilation and joy that ricochets through “Oh to Be Home” and “Life of a Dream” are matched only by the sheer exhilaration and unfettered enthusiasm echoed in “Car Henge”, the steady sway that guides “Children They Need You”, and the boisterous bluegrass infused in “Trying to Get Ready”.
‘You’re only limited by your imagination’ Nora Jane Struthers declares at one point early on, before offering a final resilient refrain courtesy (there ain't no life that's better than this’) on the intensely inspired “Back on the Road”. Coming from Nora Jane Struthers, that premise is persuasive enough to encourage everyone else not only to eventually agree, but, in fact, to quickly concede.
(by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Nora Jane Struthers from Bandcamp
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