"Flying" has wings that are going to take Darin and Brooke Aldridge to virgin territories only dreamt of by their peers. Just like what Alison Krauss did a couple of decades ago when she took what was considered museum-styled bluegrass, dust off the fossils before covering them with new sinews making them palpable to a new generation. This is precisely what Darin and Brooke Aldridge are trying to do with their new album "Flying." No one puts it quite as eloquently as hit writer Jim Lauderdale (who wrote an essay in the CD booklet) when he writes, "Darin and Brooke bring tradition to today and today to tradition." With this new record, the Aldridges have burst the seams of genre categorization and have tailored a musical gingham weaved together with twines of bluegrass, acoustic Americana, contemporary country and gospel. Hailed from Cherryville, N.C., the Aldridges were voted "Emerging Artist of the Year" two years in a row by International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music (SPBGMA) further voted them as gospel group, album, and song of the year nominees.
By no means is "Flying" frivolously selected as the album's titular. "Flying" allows the Aldridges to take flight over pastures far broader than just the narrow confines of religion. Rather, the themes of these songs encompass a variegated number of issues related to life and relationships often viewed with a Christian undercurrent. Thus, fans who have loved the Gospel side of the Aldridges' music do not need to feel isolated. Take "Love Does" as an example: utilizing what is often a trademark of song writing in country music, the song spirals around different stories of unconditional love with the last verse revolving around the story of God's love lavished on us through Jesus Christ. As far as spirituality is concerned, one should not miss Becky Buller ad Bethany Dick-Olds' "Laurie Stevens." On the cursory level "Laurie Stevens" is a story song about an ill fated lover that ended up in death. But with the mention of "Jordan,""rivers" and sacrificial love, one suspects that there are layers of spiritual depths waiting for us to excavate.
In sync with the album's theme on "Flying" is the couple's reading of Nanci Griffith's ultra-catchy "Outbound Plane," a track that Suzy Bogguss took to country music's top 10 in the early 1990s. "Outbound Plane" is a stellar example of song writing at its most pristine. Many song writers may utilize an image here and there but Griffith takes the whole imagery of comparing a love leaving with a person on a one-way trip to a whole new level. Who can forget ingenious lines such as: "That frown you're wearin'/Is just your halo turned upside down/Where is the laughter we once shared/Back in the lost and found?" Just as human love is often celebrated in the Bible, "Maybe Just a Little," "To the Moon and Back," "Higher than My Heart" and "I Gotta Have Butterflies" deal with love in its various stages of a relationship. Brooke Aldridge's malleable vocal timbres with that backwoods drawl of a Dolly Parton and the innocent purity of Claire Lynch is the perfect match for the coy-ish "Maybe Just a Little." And just as lilting as Brooke was with her cover of Shania Twain's "No One Needs to Know" last year, her rendition of "I Gotta Have Butterflies" is just as playful and sweet.
But not all his light hearted and air-fairy, "Trying to Make the Clocks Slow Down" is a somber reminder to all of us to number our days and cherish the moments God has given us. Such a message is not only resounded in the lyrics, but the song's jaunty rhythms including a few purposeful pauses further amplify the song's message rhetorically. "Flying" is acoustic music at its best; it will make us alight in the flurries of love as well as transport us to the recesses of the soul pondering anew issues that are dear to the heart.