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Stripped Down Gussied Up is a heaping handful of intriguing juxtapositions; paradoxical natures set to play against one another. The result is a complex work that defies easy classification. Lyrics about rage, love, murder, loss, and rebirth all play out over a lushly treated yet spare musical backdrop that is both acoustic and not; distinctly rooted in Appalachian traditions, yet unmistakably modern, sweetly nostalgic, and urgently current.
After years of bar-band, bombastic rocking bluegrass and blues arrangements (with the occasional departure into classical music and folk) we see Edens taking a more nuanced approach that highlights the talents apparent in both the recording members of the group. Kevin Reese, making his recording debut with Edens, shines though with his searing guitar breaks while simultaneously supporting the song in appearances on a myriad of Appalachian stringed instruments and subtly sweet harmonies throughout. Edens, meanwhile brings his signature twisted vocal bray and dark, detailed songwriting to bear, while also adding a muscular rhythm backing both on guitar and percussion. The result yields an impossibly big sound for a duo. From the soaring melancholy of “Sirens” to the haunting heavy thud of “Body” to the ambling good-nature of “It’s Alright, It’s All Wrong,” Stripped Down Gussied Up is full and complete work, masterfully done, and lovingly touched with humanity, in all it’s grimy, glorious idiosyncrasies.