Album Review: Laura Orshaw - "Solitary Diamond"

Veteran Bluegrass musician is remarkably poised on debut album for Dark Shadow Recording.

After years of playing in bands like Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Alan Bibey & Grasstown and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Laura Orshaw has stepped up to be the front woman of her own band with Solitary Diamond, her debut album for Dark Shadow Recording. Born and raised in the northeastern part of the United States, Orshaw’s natural twang belies that fact as she sound like a sonic cousin to Iconic Country and roots music superstar Patty Loveless.

There’s an aching in the vocals on the songs found on Solitary Diamond. Robby Fulks’ “I’ll Trade You Money For Wine” opens the record and it makes for a wonderful Bluegrass tune with all the lonesome tones needed for a standout opener and the instrumental interplay between Orshaw’s fiddle and the band stand out as does Bluegrass icon Tim O’Brian’s harmony vocal on the chorus. “On Her Own” finds Laura duetting with Tim Hensley and you’d think it’s a high lonesome ballad but it’s actually about a woman who is able to work and do her thing to prove that she can, even if she loved the duets she sang with her man when they were together. It’s a classic country style duet and one that shouldn’t be missed.

“High Mountain Rising,” written by stellar roots musicians Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz, is about a woman who is an integral part of her community. She's a woman who gives her all every day and rises above everything to be an example for all to see. “I Can’t Settle Down” is a fantastic fiddle tune with a wall of sound courtesy of Orshaw, Jenee Fleener and Brittany Haas. Fleener also serves as a “duet” partner as a vocalist as well. Orshaw’s own “Lonely Is My Name” showcases she can not only play and interpret music but she can also write songs like the best to ever do it. This classic country cheatin’ song finds a partner moving out but a new one, “Lonely,” moving in to take their place.

All great bluegrass (and country albums) should (and often do) contain a story song that stops you in your tracks and “Veins of Coal” that song for Laura Orshaw’s Solitary Diamond. There’s a menacing, eerie feel to the lyrics and melody of “Veins of Coal” and it makes you stop and listen to each word Laura sings while the instrumentation of this band serves to fill the gaps between each and every word, from mandolin, fiddle and guitar plucks adding to the atmosphere. "Hank" is another track which Laura Orshaw and the band absolutely, as they say in bluegrass circles, "cook." Check out the track and more here.

There’s just something about Laura Orshaw’s voice that makes Solitary Diamond such a wonderful experience to listen to. The song “Speak Your Heart” is an apt description for what Laura Orshaw does throughout the entirety of Solitary Diamond, one of Bluegrass’ best debuts for sure but also something that could and should speak to fans of Roots and Country music too.