If you didn’t know that Copper Kettle were Brooklyn-based and committed to writing original material, bluegrass cuts like “Blacktop Highway” and “Darlin’” could easily fool, as evidence by the high praise the group has received in the genre’s more traditional haunts. Mandolin-player and bandleader Fred Skellenger sings with a natural earthiness, and never gussies up his sturdy tunes with more than the essentials, and certainly never with feigned aw-shucks corniness. Ably assisted by guitarist and co-writer Andrew Hunt, and Nancy Hunt’s harmonizing, songs like the warbling “No Lover Sweeter” and the appropriately propulsive “Fast Train” are sure to please fans of straight-up bluegrass. A couple of well-traveled traditionals do round out Coal Rabbit, as if to better advertise the group’s knowledge of and passion for bluegrass’s rich legacy. But while finely executed, the gesture isn’t entirely necessary; Copper Kettle is a wonderful surprise from a most unlikely locale, whose own material rings as clear and true.
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// Notes from the Road
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