We Made It Home is the debut album as a duo from this pair of San Francisco based acoustic musicians and it’s a bit of departure from their bluegrass group Front Country. Stripped back to the basics with two voices and a handful of instruments (guitar, banjo and mandolin) they forsake dizzying string breakouts and concentrate on their songs which are delivered with the minimum of fuss. Both Walker and Groopman have fine voices and when they sing together the effect is sublime while their finger picking is exemplary. The temptation is to compare them to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings but Walker and Groopman have a jauntier bounce at times although on the more sombre songs they do approach Welch’s gravitas and earnestness.
Populated for the most part with Walker originals (with two co writes with Groopman) there are covers of Paul Simon’s Graceland (which allows Groopman to display his guitar skills) and of Peter Rowan’s Mississippi Moon (learned from a Jerry Garcia album) delivered with a “so laid back it’s horizontal” style with wonderful harmonies and very fine mandolin. Walker’s song’s subjects range from the traditional sounding title song which opens the album in fine style to musings on astronomy on the rippling Betelgeuse. While the story of an ex circus chimp (Billy the Chimp) and the train song Little Blue Caboose are at the very least toe tapping the duo excel on those strained and tortured songs which are scattered throughout the album. Aside from the Rowan cover they take the traditional Sweet Sunny South and capture that high lonesome sound that can send a chill down the spine. Retinue is a folkier contribution which almost sounds like John Prine as Walker and Groopman sing a sad love song. The stars collide on the standout song here, Black Grace. A halting and haunting hymn to a heaven on earth it earned Walker a first prize in this year’s Merlefest. It’s a wonderful piece with strong vocals from Walker as she ponders the mysteries of the firmament while guitar and mandolin weave an intricate and delicate backdrop.
A fine album and Walker and Grossman are currently offering it as a pay what you wish download here