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An acoustic treat, Guest House is furnished with a blend of styles rooted in ancient tones but boasting a contemporary glow in the seasoned hands of bluegrass innovators Laurie Lewis (fiddle, guitars, vocals) and Tom Rozum (vocals, mandolin, mandola, guitar). The pair dip into gospel, folk, bluegrass, and country, positioning well-turned original songs alongside well-chosen covers, both of which allow for plenty of hot pickin' and a dollop of introspective instrumental commentary. With a few select side players along for support, Lewis's frantic, album-opening ballad, "Willie Poor Boy," takes a page from Woody Guthrie in its compassionate approach to a beleaguered workingman's plight, and the acoustic instruments summon the sizzling spirit of Flatt & Scruggs. "Tramps and Hawkers," a deliberately paced, somber tale of a drifter's yearning for the land and people he must sadly leave behind, tugs extra hard at the heartstrings when Lewis adds poignant, keening fiddle support to Rozum's melancholy vocal. Bill Monroe's life story inspired the toe-tapping, banjo- and fiddle-fired epic "O My Malissa," which is paired with a version of the Monroe Brothers' "How Old Are You?" in an inspired moment of vocal and instrumental transcendence. An album so rich in authoritative picking, though, finds its most powerful moment in the a cappella voices harmonizing on "Quiet Hills," a hymnlike testimony to faith in the future in the midst of a bleak present. Toss in a spirited rendition of the evergreen "Old Dan Tucker" and a jubilant rendition of a Perry Como landmark, "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," and this Guest House is full up -- with a surfeit of good things. David McGee
Originally published April 8, 2004
This CD jumps out at you from the first beat of the first song. Wow!
You just can't beat Laurie Lewis. What a pure and clear voice. Willie Poor Boy, the first song on this CD comes across with so much power that you will want to replay it even before listening to the rest of the CD.
If you want to sing along with these songs, Laurie has lyrics on her site for this CD and of course you can purchase the CD there too. See the link below for purchase.
The songs here move from high powered bluegrass song of Willie Poor Boy, to the gospel arrangement of Quite Hills that you would expect to hear coming from Ralph Stanley, to a little rumba (Johnny & Jack), beat of Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes.
The harmony singing here is nothing less than perfect which also applies to the arrangements. All and all we have an excellent CD here that I definitely recommend to the traditionalists and comtemporary bluegrass music lovers alike.
Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum Guest House Hightone Records
By Christine LaPado Chico News and Reviews
Tom Rozum’s mandolin starts off his and vocalist/fiddler/guitarist Laurie Lewis’ latest CD, Guest House, properly, launching briskly into the sassy little Lewis original, “Willie Poor Boy.” From there, the Rozum and Lewis duo performs a very nice vocal duet on another Lewis original, the somewhat melancholy “Since You Went Away,” as well as a cover of the Hazel Dickens song “Scars from an Old Love”--a gorgeous, tear-jerking, show-stealer of a song--showcasing Lewis’ beautiful voice, complete with touches of her lovely yodel. On “Quiet Hills,” Rozum and bassist Todd Sickafoose’s back-up bluegrass vocal harmonies are deep and perfect, and the final track, a medley of traditional tunes, “Wild Rose of the Mountain”/ “The Devil Chased Me Around the Mountain”/“Glory at the Meeting House,” arranged by Lewis, Rozum and Sickafoose, is a long instrumental (7 minutes 37 seconds) that is just the right length--it’s that good.
Bluegrass Unlimited/Julie Koehler
It's been a while since I've heard Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum-entirely my fault, not theirs. Listening to their latest CD, "Guest House," I'm struck by the comfort level this West Coast duo has developed over the years. In an age of here today, gone tomorrow, commitment and steadfastness clearly have value, as evidenced in these 13 tracks.
Certainly, the soul of any Lewis/Rozum album is Laurie's exquisite fiddling and Tom's brightly poignant mandolin playing. Like a perfectly executed pas de deux, their instruments dance together, in and out of the spotlight, giving strength and continuity to each melody. And if the instruments are the soul of the music, vocals are its heart. Laurie's lead singing has warmth, power, and maturity; while young voices may learn the words, Lewis conveys each song's meaning. (Listen to the heartbreaking ballad "Scars From An Old Love.") Tom's harmony blends flawlessly and is arranged for their unique style, supporting from below Laurie's higher melody and giving the songs a deeply-rooted, solidly-anchored feeling.
Material on "Guest House" glides easily through several arenas-social commentaries; slow, beautiful ballads; familiar old friends ("Old Dan Tucker," "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes"); fun, bouncy tunes ("Alaska," "O My Malissa/How Old Are You?"); a haunting a cappella number; and a lengthy instrumental medley that smokes as it closes the album. The selections work well as a single body of work, moving from thought-provoking to toe-tapping, heart-wrenching to smile-inducing.Adding to the richness of "Guest House" are several high-powered West Coast musicians-Todd Sickafoose (bass), Craig Smith and Tom Sauber (banjo), Scott Huffman (guitar), Nina Gerber (lead guitar), and Mike Marshall (mandocello, guitar)-giving Lewis and Rozum lots of arrangement possibilities, resulting in a duo album with the fullness of a band. Works for me. (Hightone Records, 220 4th St. #101, Oakland, CA 94607, www.hightone.com.)JK
Bluegrassworks.com/ Joe Ross
The title of the third duet album from Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum was inspired by the 13th C. Persian poet, mystic and religious scholar Jalal al-Din Rumi. Like bluegrass music, the “Guest House” of humanity is wrought with various emotions from joy to sorrow, depression to delight. Laurie and Tom also have an affinity for old-time and folk music in their songs full of love, advice and caution. Besides her own the originals, the duo covers a couple by Hazel Dickens (”My Heart’s Own Love” and ”Scars From an Old Love”) and others by Claudia Schmidt, Si Kahn, Slim Willet, Liz Meyer, Jim Ringer, and Kate McLeod. The rollicking opener, “Willie Poor Boy,” is a sorrowful tale about an angry man with a gun whose rage lands him in prison. In a style reminiscent of The Louvins, “Since You Went Away” is an original country duet with understated arrangement but a catchy hook. “You can’t harvest any good when you sow bad seed” is the cautionary missive found in “Bad Seed.” An appealing Celtic melody is the foundation of Jim Ringer’s “Tramps and Hawkers.” There are other pleasant surprises – Rozum’s additional lyrics to “Old Dan Tucker”; a resurrection of the 1950s hit “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes”; the splendid four-part a cappella harmonies on Claudia Schmidt's “Quiet Hills”; the nearly 8-minute traditional fiddle tune medley that closes the album.
Laurie wrote “O My Malissa” after reading about courtship of Bill Monroe’s parents. It makes a seque into “How Old Are You?,” a fiddle tune learned from a recording of Bill, Charlie and Birch Monroe in 1969. This medley and “My Heart’s Own Love” feature the frailing banjo of Tom Sauber. Craig Smith’s bluegrass banjo embellishes six cuts. The other ccompanists include Todd Sickafoose (bass), Scott Huffman (guitar, 4 cuts), Nina Gerber (lead guitar, 2 cuts), Mike Marshall (mandocello on one cut, guitar on one cut). Laurie plays fiddle and guitar; Tom plays mandolin, mandola, and guitar.From Berkeley, Laurie got hooked on bluegrass in the 1960s and has played with many groups (Phantoms of the Opry, Good Ol’ Persons, Free Mexican Air Force, Vern Williams Band, Arkansas Shieks, Blue Rose, and Grant Street) before starting her own band in 1998. A two-time California State Women’s Fiddle Champion and two-time IBMA “Female Vocalist of the Year” (1992 and 1994), Laurie has also appeared at the Grand Ole Opry. Tom Rozum has worked with Lewis since 1986. He recently released his first solo album, “Jubilee,” and “Guest House” is actually their eighth overall album together. Lewis and Rozum recorded their first duet album in 1995. “The Oak and the Laurel” was nominated for a Grammy in 1996 for Best Traditional Folk Album. “Winter’s Grace” was put out in 1999.
The indefatigable Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum have a reputation for exciting musicianship. Their sound keeps hot fiddle, mandolin and duet singing in the forefront. They’re a little bit classic country, a tad bit folk, a skosh old-timey, and slightly bluegrass. This album is proof that they can expertly do it all. Their versatility gives this album a high degree of intrigue and charm. Yoga Journal/ J. Poet " A champion fiddler and superb vocalist, Lewis is also a gifted songwriter with the ability to look at the world as a deeply questioning seeker without denying any of its problems or inherent humor. On Guest House, she and longtime partner Tom Rozum (vocals, mandolin, mandola, guitar) explore the byways of the human heart and the vagaries of fate with a collection of timeless songs, old and new... The album's title comes from a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi that urges us to treat joy, sorrow, and depression as fleeting guests in the home of the heart, since every experience can open us to 'some new delight.' Lewis and Rozum have obviously taken his words to heart; every song here is full of an uplifting spirit that invites listeners to let their own inner light shine."
All Music Guide/Chris Nickson
All in all, a joyous, often lovely record.
There was a time when Laurie Lewis was seen as the queen of West Coast bluegrass, as if it was a different animal from Southern bluegrass. It's not, of course, and these days Lewis is recognized as one of the music's major practitioners. This showcases her vocal talents and puts her playing on the back burner, and she can certainly use her voice, especially on the two Hazel Dickens songs here, with "Scars from an Old Love" being so good you actually hold your breath during the song. That she's also a strong writer is demonstrated by three of her own compositions, with "O My Malissa" being the best, the tale of the courtship between the late great Bill Monroe's parents. It would be unfair to play down Tom Rozum's contributions, as he offers some scintillating mandolin work that's an absolute joy, and provides a perfect vocal foil for Lewis on tracks like "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and "Since You Went Away." They both get to shine vocally on"Quiet Hills," an a cappella piece that's made of fragile beauty. Closing with an instrumental medley was a good cleansing idea, and everyone obviously has a glorious time with it, Lewis' fiddle work on the first piece atmospheric and moving. All in all, a joyous, often lovely record.
Nashville Public Radio/Dave Higg
“There's simply some magnificent and breathtaking music here from two of the finest singers/songwriters/instrumentalists in the known acoustic music world.”
“Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are one of the best acoustic duet combinations around, with just enough similarity in the range and tone of their voices to make the harmonies interesting and just enough difference to make things fascinating. That they are both topnotch instrumentalists, Lewis mainly on fiddle and Rozum primarily on mandolin, adds texture to the music they've chosen.”
“Lewis and Rozum set out to prove that their music can encompass the very big world of everything it means to be human and that it can heal. They succeed with flying fingers. They offer songs of affirmation, true love, urban violence and nostalgic humor. The musicianship throughout is impeccable, worthy of its pedigree. The "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, with its pure beauty and appeal to nostalgia, showed there is an audience for authentic American songs. In their music, Lewis and Rozum keep the beauty, honor the nostalgia, and find the relevance.”
LA Daily News/Bob Strauss
“Bluegrass legends Lewis and Rozum infuse a wide range of influences with an authentic, connecting mountain sound. Lots of dazzling acoustic virtuosity, too. ”
Allentown Call Chronicle/Geoff Gehman
“Guest House, the third duet recording for fiddler/singer/writer Laurie Lewis and mandolinist/singer Tom Rozum is a welcome home for bluegrass, newgrass and other visitors from mountain and holler. Lewis and Rozum sing with round-the-fire warmth and play with round-the-horn briskness. No wonder they’re admired by role models such as Hazel Dickens, whose “Scars from an Old Love” they treat with sad, tender wisdom.” Sacramento Bee/Jim Carnes: “If you don't like fiddles, banjos and mandolins, don't even give Guest House a spin. But if you like 'em, this latest release from Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum (their third together, but their first on High Tone Records) offers a mountain of them. Californian Lewis, one of the true stars of contemporary bluegrass music, was a pioneer in the genre - a non-Southern woman.” Vintage Guitar/Steven Stone: “Here, on their first Hightone release, they show why they are regarded by bluegrass intelligencia as the finest co-ed duo in the business... Although the sources span a wide musical gamut, Laurie and Tom manage to bridge the expanse easily, all the while making each selection uniquely their own. It's all too easy to run out of superlatives that properly describe the sublimity of Guest House. It's simply too good for words.”
“It's been nine years since this duo's 1995 Grammy nominated CD, The Oak & the Laurel, and the follow-up to that gorgeous piece of work was worth the wait. Tom & Laurie are at the top of their game here; mining vintage country material, contemporary folk music, new takes on old fiddle tunes and finely wrought originals – all laced with the instrumental virtuosity of bluegrass. And let's not forget those impossibly sweet vocals: equal parts the Stanley & the Everly Brothers. A great record.”
Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum's Guest House provides shelter from the storms of life for the better part of an hour, providing plenty of goodwill and happiness in each of Lewis' fine fiddle lines and each of Rozum's masterful mandolinisms. Although the bulk of upbeat numbers here inspire smiles and the like, the slower, soul-searching pieces such as "Tramps and Hawkers" and "Scars From An Old Love" prove most resonant and display the full emotional range of Lewis' voice.
With a career that dates back to the mid-1970s, Laurie Lewis has always been an avid promoter of the music she loves. Here the justly lauded fiddler, singer, and songwriter teams with mandolinist Tom Rozum for their third album together. The 13 songs on Guest House mix Lewis originals with traditional numbers and well-chosen covers by some important writers from the second half of the 20th century (including Hazel Dickens, Jim Ringer, Si Kahn, and Slim Willet). When Lewis and Rozum harmonize it is truly a thing of beauty; the evocative intervals they employ on "Since You Went Away" are simply breathtaking. Additional players add supple oomph and wallop throughout, most notably Todd Sickafoose on bass and Craig Smith on banjo. --David Greenberger
Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews/Kevin McCarthy http://www.surfnetusa.com/celtic-folk/index.html mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Lewis has been a member of bluegrass royalty for many years. Some say she is also 'newgrass.' Others add that she also encompasses country and folk. Her latest, with performing partner Tom Rozum, is splashes of all of these and a followup to their 1996 Grammy nominated release "The Oak and The Laurel." This reviewer's forays into bluegrass hold the sole expectation of entertainment, without any anticipation of emotional content or connection. But that closed world was turned ajar here with a few of the selections. The late Jim Ringer's "Tramps and Hawkers," Hazel Dickens' "Scars From An Old Love," Claudia Schmidt's "Quiet Hills" and Si Kahn's "Just A Lie" all register on the heart-o-meter. Sung by Rozum, "Tramps and Hawkers,' like so many Irish and traditional U.K. songs, paints a picture of a young man lured away from his love by wondrous tales of the road:
"...I've watched the rise of light in the sky where the sun climbs out of the sea Seen giants fall in mountains tall where the lumberman cut down the trees I've played in the sand with the Gulf Coast wind, fell asleep in the grass tall and green..."
Unfortunately, by the time he eventually does return home, his love is no longer among the living. Dickens' "Scars From An Old Love" has Lewis plaintively singing of the difficulty re-developing trust after being jilted:"....The battle is over, and the victor has fled Wounded and dying, one lonely heart bled Then love sounds her bugle, playing that old sweet song But the scars from an old love haven't quite all gone...""Quiet Hills" is performed a cappella, with Lewis on lead vocals. Touching upon darkness, sorrow, hope and healing, one could easily surmise it is a product of our current times. Claudia Schmidt wrote it in 1994.
Rozum sings "Just A Lie," Kahn's tale of life in the economic depression of the early 1930s. Like the 1950s are remembered as gold old days by many my parent's eneration, Kahn destroys whatever myth anyone holds of the 30s as fine times:
"...No I don't say that everything was bad There was some might good times that we had But you can't spend the silver sun and moon And you can't eat a lonesome fiddle tune..."The title of the jittery and jumping opening cut "Willie Poor Boy" brought to mind the Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Down On The Corner" containing lyrics about 'Willie and the Poor Boys.' But there is no connection--only Willie is here. The courtship of Bill Monroe's parents is set to music and brought to life as a tribute in "O My Malissa." Lewis, Rozum and their gang close with three engaging fiddle tunes,"Wild Rose of the Mountain," The Devil Chased Me Around The Stump" and"Glory at the Meeting House."
There is plenty of pickin' to be enjoyed here, along with the aforementioned heart openers. And the creativity streak extends into the liner notes which are not separate from but unfold as part of the primarily cardboard jewel box.
Berkeley Daily Planet/Doug Spencer
Today’s featured artists make so-called “old-timey” music, yet they live in the present. A telling attack on the nostalgic urge drives one of the stand-out cuts on “Guest House”, the new CD by Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum, Equally fine as singers & players, both are multi-instrumentalists. Laurie is a particularly fine fiddler & Tom an excellent mandolinist.
The third duet album from Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum is a characteristically versatile offering of love songs, laments, social commentary and freewheeling fun in the spirit of old-time music. Laurie and Tom pay homage to Woody Guthrie, Hazel Dickens, Grandpa Jones and Bill Monroe, along with adding their own touches to traditional favorites and several of Laurie’s originals
WASHINGTON TIMES/ Kris Garnjost
Published April 15, 2004
California bluegrass performer Laurie Lewis and jazzy singer-songwriter Lisa McCormick, from Vermont, have a lot in common. They're both independent-minded women who write clear, honest, intelligent songs and possess special voices that are both strong and expressive. This week, each is playing a small, intimate venue in the Washington area. Both shows are worth a look. Laurie Lewis' visit to Jammin' Java in Vienna Monday finds her paired with her longtime singing partner, Tom Rozum. They have just released a terrific album, "Guest House." "We love duet singing," Miss Lewis says. "We've been singing together closer to twenty years than fifteen. It's a thrill to find somebody you work so well together with. And the vocal blend, I think, is really wonderful." The CD's songs give reverential nods to such legendary singers and songwriters as the Louvin Brothers, Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens and Woody Guthrie. "They all have a rural roots-music flavor to them," Miss Lewis says, "whether it's bluegrass or old-time or sort of older country, sort of Louvins. And that's the music that we really love." This is not to say the music is old and dusty. The style is classic, but each song is infused with energy and emotion. Many of the songs are brand new, including three by Miss Lewis. The first song on the album, "Willie Poor Boy," is based on a true story about a man who started to carry a gun after being robbed, then let his temper get the better of him. A cautionary tale with a Woody Guthrie feel, it has a timeless message with a very contemporary setting. "I don't like to be preached at, and I don't want to preach at people, but if there is something I can say in a way that just tells a story, I'll go for it," Miss Lewis says. "Like 'Willie Poor Boy' -- it just tells a story and reaches a conclusion without ramming it down your throat." Miss Lewis has been a leader on the California bluegrass scene since the 1970s, when she co-founded the all-woman bluegrass group Good Ole Persons. She won two awards as best female vocalist from the International Bluegrass Music Association and is a trophy-winning fiddle player. She and Mr. Rozum (who plays mandolin, fiddle and guitar) were nominated for a Grammy for their 1995 album "The Oak and the Laurel." In Vienna, they will be joined by multi-instrumentalist Tom Sauber.
The John Shelton Ivany Top Twenty-One Published in 200 national newspapers
Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum Guest House High Tone Records
by Bob Mitchell
"Guest House" features the smooth well rehearsed voices of Lewis and Rozum. However, their instrumental prowess also merits acknowledgment as a major focal point in this latest release. Lewis plays fiddle and guitar while Rozum plays mandolin, mandola, and guitar.
Their work always has been first rate but they have, once again, raised the bar. Each arrangement is thoughtful and intelligent. Most tracks are not in the three minute traditional bluegrass mode. In fact, Lewis and Rozum frequently need five minutes per cut and a fiddle medley required almost eight minutes to accommodate their ideas. The recording is difficult to categorize because it incorporates elements of country, blues, folk, bluegrass, jazz and pop. The sensitive treatment of lyrics and melody is always sweetened by the way in which their voices complement one another. The ever pleasant harmony lines are as snug as sister and brother, especially on a heartfelt "Since You Went Away," and "Scars From An Old Love."
Other highlights include a snappy clever "Bad Seed," "O My Malissa" (a love song based on Bill Monroe’s fiddle playing mother), a poignant cover for Hazel Dicken’s "My Heart’s Own Love," an accapella trio, "Quiet Hills," and a lively "Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes."
Bill Yates, Route 66
Nothing here except great music excellently and imaginatively performed. Highly recommended.
Rob Shotwell, Bluegrass Breakdown
Laurie Lewis is the creator and purveyor of some very fine acoustic and bluegrass albums during the course of her career. It shouldn't be hard to believe that she has possibly exceeded her finest work on this collaboration with her long-time partner Tom Rozum. She has always generously utilized her friends and and accomplished guests as musical compatriots, and often has encouraged their best performances. On Guest House, the generosity comes with about 54 minutes of music and includes some great song notes. Throughout their HighTone release, Lewis' fiddle is lively and as good as any you will hear. Her dynamics are flawless, with peaks and valleys that elicit emotion and excitement. Just as importantly, she sings in an unrestrained and zealous manner, trading the lead, tenor and high baritone parts with Rozum seemingly at will. Highly recomended.
Here the justly lauded fiddler, singer, and songwriter teams with mandolinist Tom Rozum for their third album together. With a career that dates back to the mid-1970s, Laurie Lewis has always been an avid promoter of the music she loves. The 13 songs on Guest House mix Lewis originals with traditional numbers and well-chosen covers by some important writers from the second half of the 20th century (including Hazel Dickens, Jim Ringer, Si Kahn, and Slim Willet). When Lewis and Rozum harmonize it is truly a thing of beauty; the evocative intervals they employ on "Since You Went Away" are simply breathtaking. Additional players add supple oomph and wallop throughout, most notably Todd Sickafoose on bass and Craig Smith on banjo.
"Laurie & Tom give us another excellent collection of great bluegrass and oldtimey music. This one will stay in may car for a long time, and it is the first playlist on my mp3 player.
After watching the group perform in a little bitty town in CA's central valley, where they performed some of the songs from the new CD, I couldn't resist buying it. What a deal! Not a bad song on it. I particularly am captured by the Alaska song, and the one I think of as "the rose of San Joaquin" (really called title Tramps and Hawkers). The latter showcases Tom and is a powerful, emotional song about a wandering life.
Now I am a bit biased, as I have all of Laurie's CD's, and value them all. But this one is on par with "The Oak and the Larel." Five star. Buy it!"
"Recommended! Another nice, understated oldtime-ish album by these SF Bay Area/Northern California acoustic music vets... The picking is solid, but resolutely unflashy, steering listeners towards the lyrics and the subtle harmony vocals. This is possibly the best of the Lewis-Rozum collaborations, with their musical inclinations in a perfect synch that mirrors that of their voices -- her low tones, meeting his high. The album opens on a note of controversy, with a cautionary tale about urban rage and gun-related violence ("Poor Boy Willie," which cleverly transposes a Woody Guthrie-style story-song into the modern day... it sounds nice, but one wonders how many of their Birkenstock-clad, ponytailed, urban folkie listeners will actually find their behavior modified by the song...) A second social commentary song scores better: "Just A Lie," which takes aim at those nostalgic for "the good old days," has a more compact structure, and a much sharper bite. In between, there's a lovely range of heartfelt, folkie truegrass, with Lewis and Rozum both singing their little hearts out. Extra points for covering Jim Ringer's timeless outlaw ballad, "Tramps And Hawkers."