I Can't Wait
Red Beet Records, RBRCD018, (2014)

CD Review by Hermon Joyner

Fayssoux Starling McLean, as a singer/songwriter, possesses a rare gift; an authentic voice that has been honed by life and steeped in experience. Authenticity is hard to find in any art medium, and in fact seems to be discouraged in most cases in favor of polished fabrications, but Fayssoux has authenticity in spades. She is the real deal. Whatever she sings, you believe it, because she is singing from her heart. Fayssoux got her start in the 1970s, singing backup harmonies for Emmylou Harris, and released her first solo effort, Early, in 2008. And now Fayssoux is back with another album, I Can’t Wait.

Her voice is singular, strong, and smokey, and seems to be made for these country songs of heartbreak and hard-living. There are well-known covers here like Merle Haggard’s “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” and Jim Lauderdale’s “Some Things Are Too Good To Last,” but the majority of the tunes are either written by Fayssoux or co-written by her. Americana singer/songwriter Peter Cooper served as producer on this album and co-wrote three of the songs. “The Last Night of the War” is especially fine. It’s obvious that Cooper knows Fayssoux’s strengths and knows how to maximize them to the best effect.

Fayssoux is joined by several talented performers playing in roughly a bluegrass ensemble configuration. Thomm Jutz and Brandon Turner play acoustic guitar through most of the album and Mark Fain anchors it all on the bass. Justin Moses is the jack-of-all-trades here and plays dobro and banjo on a few tracks, but it’s his fiddle playing that really nails it. His playing is clean and snappy and graceful, and every time he comes in on a solo, he makes me sit up and listen. Moses is a very welcome presence here.

On the other hand, Sierra Hull is the reason for mandolin fans to pay attention to this recording. She plays on every track, except for one Tom T. Hall song, “I Made a Friend of a Flower Today,” which was pulled from a very fine Tom T. Hall tribute compilation CD from Red Beet Records, I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow. Hull solos on nearly every other track of I Can’t Wait and each one is a treasure. The notes pop and roll out of her mandolin in a smooth and yet precise manner. Hull has reached a point where she has really come into her own as a mandolin player, and while you can hear traces of other players in her approach, she is now purely herself and is a force to be reckoned with. Until she comes out with another solo album, I Can’t Wait will do just fine in the meantime if you are hankering for more Sierra Hull for your musical listening pleasure.

As a whole, I Can’t Wait is a solid endeavor filled with heart-felt performances from all the contributors. Fayssoux is living proof that creativity and authenticity is still valued and alive in this world. I have the feeling that I Can’t Wait is a recording that I will revisit for a long time to come. If your tastes run to classic country music, you won’t find anything better.

Song List: I Can’t Wait; When the Thought of You Catches Up With Me; My Brain; Golightly Creek; Running Out of Lies; Mama’s Hungry Eyes; Find Your Own Light; The Last Night of the War; Ragged Old Heart; Hell on a Poor Boy; I Made a Friend of a Flower Today; Some Things Are Too Good to Last.

Contact Info: Red Beet Records, PO Box 68417, Nashville, TN 37206; www.redbeetrecords.com