Albert and Gage

Albert and Gage deliver a house concert in a jewel box with At Anderson Fair.

Some essentials oft missing in today's music, both local and worldwide: grace, finesse, authority and the knowledge that in the final tab it's essentially all about the song (whoever wrote it). Christine Albert and Chris Cage possess those qualities in spades, along with considerable ability and musicality.

So even if there's nary a new concept to be heard on this Anderson Fair live show from this Austin duo, this CD nonetheless bears a bracing freshness. Why? One might guess that this couple not only love each other but also swoon from their musical collaboration -- the joy and interplay are that tangible. And the fact that they can deftly travel from New York's Brill Building (Leiber & Stoller's "Black Denim Trousers") to Paris (two Edith Piaf tunes) to London (Chrissie Hynde's "Thumbelina") and back to Texas (Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Dallas") suggests they've escaped the common roots music straitjacket. The way they take loving possession of the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris showcase "Return of the Grievous Angel" may make for a quick comparison, but Albert and Gage leave that iconic duet in the dust with their breadth. They can rock, boogie, swing, trot down country roads and stride down sophisticated boulevards and make it all sound as it should: like parts of a unified whole rather than a mishmash of different styles.

Gage, who did time with superpicker Roy Clark, plays guitar and keys with a whimsical agility that piquantly complements Albert's dark honey folk chanteuse pipes. Yet for all their abilities, not one move here falls into conceit; a song's melody and emotional message are always paid sincere and affectionate fealty. So even if this act works the margins of the big wide musical world, Albert and Gage have global class, musicality and charm on a CD that plays on the stereo like a house concert in a jewel box.

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