It wasn't long ago that bluegrass purists frowned on the idea of a woman playing bluegrass. That notion has slowly faded, and Laurie Lewis has a great deal to do with it. Although she's known as a top-notch vocalist (she's twice won the International Bluegrass Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year Award), as a bandleader (of Grant Street, one of the best in the genre), and as a fiddle player, this collection showcases her talents as a songwriter.
Earth & Sky contains 12 tracks taken from her three previous releases on the now-defunct Flying Fish label and four new recordings. Its breadth is remarkable and amply displays Lewis' knack for lasting melodies that stretch beyond any particular type of music. One of the new tracks, "Girlfriend, Guard Your Heart", while offering sound woman-to-woman advice, has an old-time country feel it. "Texas Bluebonnets" is a western swing tune that is so well played it rises above the seeming cliche. The contrast of "The Maple's Lament", a haunting fiddle and voice tune marked by ancient Celtic overtones, with "Restless Rambling Heart", a Latin-tinged number featuring mariachi-style fiddles, displays the range of her songwriting talent.
Lewis also attracts great players to her sessions; this set features Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, members of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Buddy Emmons, Tony Furtado, Tom Rozum, Mike Marshall and Darol Anger. But the real stars are Lewis' songs. She may be adored within the bluegrass community, but as this collection demonstrates, she deserves a much wider audience.