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Appalachian Sketches ()

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This delightful collection of traditional Appalachian hymns, sung by the Massachusetts-based choir GloriÁ Dei Cantores under the direction of Elizabeth C. Patterson, is more than just one more rehashing of familiar hymn tunes and spirituals. While it does include such favorite religious songs as "Foundation" (aka "How Firm a Foundation"), "Bright Canaan," and "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal," the program also -- strangely and somewhat distractingly -- features a rather maudlin Civil War love song entitled "Lorena." The album's other unusual feature is a beautiful and moving composition by renowned fiddler Mark O'Connor, who responded to a commission from the choir by setting the words to Charles Wesley's hymn "Let Us Move" to a new melody of his own, and providing a violin obbligato. O'Connor's composition is one of the many highlights on this album, most of the rest of which are the more traditional renditions of the more traditional songs. "Lorena" is not only out of place stylistically and thematically, but is also somewhat overwrought in its arrangement and vocal delivery, and it's difficult to hear the choir's over-arranged version of "Angel Band" without wishing you were listening to Ralph Stanley's version instead. But the simple power of "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal" and "Bright Canaan" has never been communicated more movingly than it is here. Recommended. ~ Rick Anderson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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