The first song on Carrie Hassler’s album The Distance is a corker. “Luxury Liner” careens out of your speakers on a bed of fiddles, mandolin and guitar, while Hassler’s angsty vocals gushes out a torrent of uncertainty, defiance and pain. It sounds like swinging bluegrass, and it’s an exhilerating start. Unfortunately, “Luxury Liner” is as good as the record gets. Everything that follows is middle-of-the-road, by-the-numbers country: the schmaltzy sentimentality of “All I Have to Do Is Breathe” and “Keep Your Memory Warm”, the faux-naivete of “Give My Love” and the prefab sass of “Get Me Over You.” Hassler has assembled a solid team of backing musicians, including Tim Stafford on guitar, Ron Stewart on banjo and Mark Fain on bass, but even a talented band can only play the songs they’re given, and here they are given very little to work with.
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