Album Review of
Wash Away Your Troubles

Written by Joe Ross
July 14, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
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Missouri-based Valerie Smith's fourth album, "Wash Away Your Troubles" is a set of electrifying highly original gospel-infused acoustic music. Smith sings with distinctive panache, and she goes with material from respected songcrafters who have given her winning compositions in the past -- Becky Buller, Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos. They also cover a Louvin Brothers favorite, "Make Him A Soldier," Claire Lynch and Cindy Greene's "Wings To Fly", and Sarah Majors' "Soul Phone." Impressed by Valerie's work ethic and determination, this album was produced by Alan O'Bryant. 

"Wash Away Your Troubles" features Becky Buller (fiddle, viola, clawhammer banjo, vocals), Casey Grimes (bass, vocals), and Jonathan Maness (guitar, mandolin, vocals). On 2-3 tracks apiece, guests include Mike Compton (mandolin), Aaron Jackson (guitar), Matt Leadbetter (resophonic guitar, vocals), and Alan O'Bryant (banjo). 

The group elegantly assumes a devout tone on songs where the messages are paramount. Although not uploaded yet, lyrics will soon be online at "Wash away your troubles, wash away your pain" is the opening salvo in "The Rain." The set then progresses through some first pew music before elegantly closing with the refrain, "Lead us to your ocean, make us into water" to epitomize the band's love and praise of God. 

Songwriting is both art and craft. Becky Buller had a hand in four composing songs on this CD, and she knows how to cultivate her creative ideas into blossoming works. With her lively old-time banjo, "Getting Ready for Sunday," for example, is a call for each and every heart to prepare and make time for church. Becky has won the bluegrass category of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in Wilksboro, N.C. Several bluegrass groups cover her expressive material. 

Five songs on this project exhibit the stylistic writing of Nashville-based Lisa Aschmann who has written thousands of songs in many genres, with more than 300 covered by country, bluegrass and acoustic artists. Lisa's perspectives, often in collaboration with co-writer Mark Simos or others, show innovation ("God's Refrigerator"), spirituality ("Music To My Ears"), and revelation ("Blossoms on the Almond Tree"). Much in the same manner that her songs take root and flourish, a song like "Seeds" asks a simple folksy question to guide one's journey in life that will hopefully result in an individual finding meaning, purpose and salvation. Claire Lynch's alluring song also offers an encouraging message to persevere "I will walk ‘til I have wings to fly." 

There is excellent talent on this album, and the band presents some wonderful new material in spare settings that encourage intimacy with the lyrics. Valerie's direct messages reflect the eclectic sounds, influences, and textures of her Midwest home. With country, folk and bluegrass components, one primary goal of her music is to connect us all as human beings and relate evocative and inspirational messages from the depths of her heart and soul. (Joe Ross)