RED HEN’s “Crossing”

redHen(Red Hen Records, 2009):

Question: Why did Red Hen cross the road?
Possible answer: To get to the other side?

Well, not exactly.

Red Hen might be a new name on the Nippertown acoustic music scene, but the four faces are certainly familiar. And they’ve crossed back and forth across the road quite a number of times over the years.

Perhaps you know fiddler Jane Rothfield and bassist-guitarist Allan Carr from their days together as the duo Atlantic Crossing. And the duo of guitarist Linda Schrade and banjo man David Kiphuth are well known on the local folk scene as well.

Put the four fab musicians together and you get Red Hen, who describe their music as “new old time.”

“Crossing,” the band’s debut album, fuses together old-timey country music, folk and bluegrass with a bit of blues and Celtic music, too. Recorded over the course of a single weekend in Greenfield Center back in March, the album features a bakers’ dozen of captivating tunes.

It’s a bit more mellow and folk-oriented than Rothfield’s 2008 album, “iFiddle, theyBanjo,” collection of old-timey duets. But that’s not a bad thing at all, especially considering the magnificent vocal harmonies that this foursome manages to conjure up on such nuggets as the opening “Both Sides of the Road,” the poignant ballad “Tell Me True” and the twinkling “November Wind.”

Elsewhere on the album, the quartet offers Bill Monroe’s wistful “Sittin’ Alone in the Moonlight” (featuring Kiphuth’s sole lead vocal), “Annabelle Lee” (Carr interpreting the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem) and a trio of ace instrumentals.

Striking the delicate balance between the traditional and traditionally minded original tunes, “Crossing” is a perfect introduction to Red Hen, who make honest, sparkling acoustic music. This is pretty stuff, and fun, too.

Red Hen celebrates the release of “Crossing” with a performance and CD release party at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, September 19.

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