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Wassaic Way 

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny IrionRte. 8 Records

The opening eight seconds of "Chairman Meow"—the first track from Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion's third album Wassaic Way—is a doppelganger for a song from Wilco's last album The Whole Love. The rest of the song isn't far off from that sound—and that's by design.

The album was recorded at Wilco's studio The Loft in Chicago. Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone contributed to Wassaic Way as performers as well as writers and producers. The result is a robust pairing of Wilco's alt-country sound with the sweet folk harmonies and soft musicality of husband-and-wife duo Guthrie and Irion.

Beyond that first track is a myriad of alternating folk, rock and '70s adult contemporary sounds. The album's title track owes its lazy jingle bells and broad vocals to recordings by The Carpenters and Kim Carnes. Other tracks, like "Not Feeling It," fall back on strong Tweedy influences with plucky guitar and flirt with British pop style vocals a la The Beatles.

Guthrie, who is the daughter of legendary singer Arlo Guthrie and the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie, is clearly the focal point of the album as she continues the family legacy of using tradition as the backbone of her music. Irion's contributions to the instrumentation, songwriting and harmonies carry intrinsic and necessary value, but take a slight backseat to the comforting voice of Guthrie. When summed up, there is a heartfelt homey quality to their songs. Especially the country duet "Hurricane Window," a piano-laden ditty as durable as an old beat-up Chevy truck and as rustic as a pair of dusty cowgirl boots.


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