Musical vittles that hit just the right spot without being too overly spicy
Total Playing Time – 37:15 -- Hailing from Idaho, siblings Mark Holt and Kimberlee Holt Tully were raised on a wide variety of music, ranging from John Denver to Merle Haggard, Charlie Rich to Sammy Davis Jr. One of their biggest influences, however, is Marty Robbins. Along their musical path, they also discovered bluegrass. Never intending to label their sound, they have progressed towards a preference for acoustic country and western music. With many years of performance experience under their belts, Mark and Kim have now released their debut album, “Acoustically Native,” coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Robbins’ death on October 18, 2002. This CD is subtitled “the sampler sessions” because five of the songs were all recorded in early 2000, and four were originally sent to Western Radio in a package called "The Nashville Sampler."
“Acoustically Native” serves more as a showcase for lead vocalist Mark, while Kimberlee takes a supportive role with light percussion on all but two cuts. The album opens with a tribute to Marty Robbins, “El Paso City” which features some nice duet singing of Mark Holt with Kathy Chiavola, including falsetto segments together. “Midnight Rider” is the only cut that could be considered bluegrass with its hard-driving banjo, expertly picked by Scott Vestal. This song received some very favorable DJ feedback after its release in March, 2002 on the Prime Cuts of Bluegrass, Volume 56.
Three songs, “One Last Dance, ” “Another Day,” and “All Over Now” are showcases of Mark’s country songwriting skills, and his passionate renditions explain why he was nominated in 2001 for “Best Western Male Performer" by the Academy of Western Artists. He demonstrates good control over his tenor as he uses it to portray sincere emotion and feeling. Mark incorporates dynamics into his vocals by emphasizing phrasing, with an occasional growl, yodel, yip, and a considerable amount of breathy vocal tremolo, perhaps a touch too heavy for some. This album’s version of Tex Owens’ “Cattle Call,” however, is one of the most beautiful renditions I’ve ever heard. Their gospel selection, “Why Me Lord” is also quite striking and is currently receiving considerable airplay as a result of its May, 2002 release on the Prime Cuts of Bluegrass, Volume 57. The band’s Frank Sinatra medley demonstrates their ability to arrange different kinds of material, then throw them out as a curve ball. Randy Kohrs offers up some stellar resonator guitar work on the Sinatra medley.
Musicians on “Acoustically Native” include Mark Holt (vocals, guitar on six songs), Kimberlee Holt Tully (percussion on eight songs), Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin on “One Last Dance”), Pete Huttlinger (acoustic and gut string guitars on four songs), Randy Kohrs (dobro), Kathy Chiavola (harmony vocals), Mark Fain (bass fiddle), Scott Vestal (banjo on “Midnight Rider”), and Tim Tappan (piano).
Acoustically Native is a nice easy listen of songs that incorporate a variety of influences. Without being overproduced, this album is a wonderful showcase of Mark Holt and his lead vocals, arranged with some tasty rawboned trimmin’s of professional instrumentation. These musical vittles hit just the right spot without being too overly spicy. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)