Lynda Dawson and Pattie Hopkins are familiar to area bluegrass adherents (In this IBMA state of mind, aren't we all bluegrass adherents?) as two-fifths of Kickin Grass. In recent years, though, the two have built a repertoire of duo material, which gets its proper launch via the Kickstarter-funded LP, Traditional Duets. Here, the pair delivers earnest renditions of, yes, traditional folk numbers, plus tunes from the likes of AP Carter, Bill Monroe and Doc Watson.
Unfortunately, Traditional Duets offers only what the name implies, as these versions deliver little in the way of personal updates or interpretations of familiar fare. You'll tap your toes, maybe, but you won't jump or dance or weep, despite the real-life exigencies that shaped these tunes. Dawson and Hopkins prefer instead to tread lightly on what's already clearly marked middle ground. Many songs amble along, avoiding emotional highs or lows. "Train on the Island," "I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow" and "Cold Rain and Snow" boost the mood slightly, but that energy is short-lived.
The record peaks in prettiness during "Bonaparte's Retreat," the fiddle tune recorded by Alan Lomax that eventually inspired an excerpt of Aaron Copland's ballet Rodeo. The duo's take is reserved and elegant, slowly speeding into what resembles an old-time reel. It's over all too soon, leaving "Beautiful Hills of Galilee" to mute the mood once again. Though it's a beautiful old gospel tune that could stir feelings for the most adamant atheist, there's too little power here for the message to move anyone. That, at least, is probably not what tradition intended.