Vern Williams and Ray Park both grew up in the Ozarks of Arkansas, about five miles away from each other, but never met until moving to central California in the 1950s. Their memorable live performances and recordings in the ‘60s and ‘70s largely formed the basis for the bluegrass repertoire in California, and they became powerful influences on many aspiring bluegrass musicians.Their intensity and integrity left no doubt that they were the Real Deal.
Among those coming under the spell of Vern & Ray -- and playing in their bands on occasion -- were American roots music veterans Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick. They have been turning to Vern & Ray material since they began singing together in the mid- 1970’s, and dedicated their first duet album, Together (Rounder Records), to Vern and Ray. They now revisit these beloved songs for their newly- released (and long-awaited) second collaboration, Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray.
They share and swap the lead and harmony vocal parts, and are ably assisted by some of the west coast’s finest musicians: Tom Rozum, Patrick Sauber, Keith Little, Annie Staninec, and Sally Van Meter. They offer fresh interpretations of songs learned from Vern & Ray that originated with the Carter Family, Stephen Foster, Ray Park’s original compositions, and a variety of other sources.
There’s something special about witnessing two contemporary masters returning to their personal roots in such a public way. Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray is a new classic, exploring and transforming early influences on an album that is as intimate and contemporary as it is universal and historical, a wonderful reminder that sometimes the best way to go someplace new is to remember where you’ve come from.