Ever since she founded the all-woman bluegrass band Good Ol’ Persons in the mid-Seventies, Lewis has remained one of the Bay Area’s best traditional musicians. She’s an emotive singer, an accomplished guitarist and fiddler, a masterful improviser, and a versatile songwriter. As such, Lewis brings plenty of passion and class to every note she plays. The music of Bill Monroe originally inspired her to pick up the fiddle, and she returns the favor on Slippin’ and Flyin’. This tribute to his music was released shortly after his centennial on September 13.
Although the spirit of Monroe is present in most of her music, Lewis is too smart and too creative to make an album in Monroe’s style. While she includes credible covers of two Monroe numbers — “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “A Lonesome Road” — most of the selections here showcase her uncanny ability to shed new light on familiar tunes. “Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues,” a Jimmie Rodgers song, gets a ragtime flavored arrangement with Chad Manning’s fiddle and Andrew Conklin’s standup bass supporting some bluesy yodeling from Lewis. Kathy Kallick supplies harmony vocals on “Carter’s Blues,” to compliment Lewis’ plaintive lead; Patrick Sauber intensifies the song’s desolate feel with his banjo. “Old Ten Broeck” is a variation on Monroe’s “Molly and Tenbrooks.” Lewis borrows some of Monroe’s style for her lead vocal while her bandmates supply some fancy fretwork. Tom Rozum’s mandolin and Sauber’s banjo are impressive. (Spruce and Maple Music)