Cedar Hill Refugees: Pale Imperfect Diamond

By: Dennis Cook

Plucked from an iridescent firmament, this glows like a campfire on the moon, folk music carried into the skyway and played with trembling tenderness and unconstrained parameters. Pale Imperfect Diamond (released May 19 on Effigy Records) is likely to blow up big on the folkie radar given the participants, which include John Carter Cash, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Greg Leisz, John Cowan, The Peasall Sisters and many other notables. The x-factor, and it's a significant one, is Uzbekistan group Jadoo, who takes the lot of them way outside their normal wheelhouse. The tunes have ancient fingerprints but the execution buzzes with outside of time energy, greased by modern oils but moving unlike anything we've heard previously from these well-established musicians.

It's like the echoed reflection of folk music sent far into space in the memory banks of a satellite, the response to our call by some species along its lonely path moved by what they heard. Coordinated and produced by Jack Clift and John Carter Cash, it's a lovely recording, which feels spacious despite the large ensemble, with underplaying the rule rather than the exception and thus each instrument and voice hits with the sure clink of a blacksmith's hammer. Given the participation of a good deal of the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack folks, there's strong resonance with that old time revival joint, yet arched differently through African chants, global churches, No Man's Land drones and other Silk Road accents. The pastel landscape on the cover, all purple and pink and black, hovering at twilight or dawn, suggests we've traveled to a new place, and the music is altered in the journey, just as it was in wagon train days.

In much the same way John Carter Cash's father re-contextualized his music with the American Recordings series, this throws familiar elements into a new light, and like the jewel in the title, its facets glimmer and entrance with shifting beauty.

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