Sometimes a good idea is really a good idea and so it was when Katy Boyd and Marty Atkinson decided to join together and form Blue Cactus Choir. The result of that union is Once In A Bluegrass Moon.
Marty Atkinson is a bluegrass musician who spent over a decade as a member of the Cactus Choir. I reviewed Katy Boyd’s last studio album, Paper Hearts, which was a modern folk album with some country leanings. Together they meet somewhere in the middle. Their united sound fuses the instruments of bluegrass, the lyrics of folk, and the smooth production of modern country.
They were in a prolific mood when they assembled the album as they wrote all 21 of the tracks. They also were wise enough to assemble many of the leading Nashville musicians to support them. They included banjo/mandolin/fiddle player Justin Moses and bassist Mark Fein, both of whom play in Ricky Skaggs band, plus steel guitarist Fats Kaplin, pianist Gary Smith, drummers Lynn Williams & Steve Brewster, and guitarist/keyboardist Thomm Jutz to form a tight backing band.
The album is a fairly mellow affair as the tracks meander along in a cohesive manner. The listening experience is enhanced by the production and engineering, which is just about perfect. Each instrument is distinct and the vocals are crystal clear.
The songs feature one or the other with the lead vocal and both then join together on the harmonies. Marty Atkinson has a wonderfully clear traditional country voice while Boyd’s is grittier. While they may seem different, when they combine the harmonies are tight and wonderful.
“Blue Moon Over Mexico” and “Avalon” are the first tracks and establishes the style and tempo for what will follow. Atkinson’s clear voice presents the story, which leads to their harmonies. The constant use of a fiddle gives many of the tracks a poignant sound.
Several of Boyd’s tracks, such as “A Cat Called Ginger and a Dog Called Fred Astaire” and “Don’t Send Me Flowers,” are catchy with witty and incisive lyrics.
Their most adventurous track is “Where Do I Belong” which has a slightly harder edge as it approaches a country rock sound.
The Blue Cactus Choir has released an excellent debut album, which presents their distinctive sound. It is music that wears well through multiple listens and leaves you wanting more.