Imagine that you are a 19-year-old aspiring country singer and you are looking to record your second album. You’ve been coached and trained from an early age for stardom on the big stage. You have a wholesome look, the kind that always attracts interest. What do you do in order to distinguish yourself and stand out from the legions of other wannabes? If you are Mary Sarah, you hop around the country to different recording studios and record duets with traditional country luminaries like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Lynn Anderson and Ray Price. You call your album Bridges, as a salute to the classic country music of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. It takes a lot of money and influence to do such a project. Does it work? Yes, indeed.
Mary Sarah’s voice is stunning and obviously honed for the genre. What shines through in these duets is a sincere attachment to her genre’s past. Boldly, she looks back in order to go forward. The opening duet with Dolly Parton on “Jolene” will rope you in for the rest of the album. It is one of the finest renditions yet of this old chestnut. Her interpretation of “Heartaches by the Number” with Ray Price is revelatory, breathing new life into this museum piece without betraying its roots. But it’s “Crazy,” a duet with Willie Nelson that really is the album’s highlight. Sarah doesn’t do the impossible and steal it from Patsy Cline – but she does own it.
Mary Sarah’s voice and training will bring her stardom. How long and brightly her career will shine is unknown. The direction she will take is unknown. There is a lot of risk in Bridges, but she executes it magnificently, bringing the genre and these particular artists through to today’s audience, which is something to welcome. Here’s hoping this is the start of something great and lasting. It certainly sounds that way.
– Robert Myers