Review: Mare Winningham - Refuge Rock Sublime


Album Cover - Refuge Rock Sublime
Refuge Rock Sublime
 Artist: Mare Winningham
 Album: Refuge Rock Sublime
 Date of Release: 2007/03/27
 Label: Craig 'N Co. / Dist. Universal/Fontana
 Cat. No.:  
 UPC: 704791015020
 Country of Release: US
 Genre/s: 1. World | Country, Bluegrass
2. Popular
3. World | Jewish

 Sub-Genre/s: 2. Contemporary Singer-Songwriter
3. Contemporary, Hebrew Song, Other
 Type: Studio
   Time: 40:11
   Date of Review: 2009/06/09
   Web Site:  

Purchasing Info

Mare Winningham - Refuge Rock Sublime

Award winning actress and acclaimed singer-songwriter Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime was released on 27th March 2007 and is still her most recent album. It arrived here quite out of the blue, along with a couple of other new releases, from record label Craig 'N Co. sometime in early 2007 and proved to be a delightful surprise. Unfortunately, a review had to wait until now as at the time Rainlore's World of Music was not actively being updated and the new site design was already in development.

More's the pity really, because Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime is such a delightful, almost achingly beautiful album. The blurb describes it as "Country Bluegrass Jewish Folk" - yep, I'll buy that. But it's so much more really. It was recorded in Arkansas "with a back-up band straight out of 'O Brother, Where Art Thou' territory", and that hits the nail squarely on the head too. It's just a pity that the pre-release promo came without any sleeve and the PR blurb material sadly doesn't credit this superb backing band.

Refuge Rock Sublime is superbly and beautifully subtly produced. There is nothing OTT here, anywhere, the production is simply brilliant. Mare Winningham's singing voice is the kind that you could listen to all day without ever tiring of it, even if she was just singing out the local phone directory.

Of the thirteen tracks on this album, nine are Mare Winningham originals or co-penned by her. These are of the very highest caliber and basically impossible to pigeonhole into any one single genre. They could be interpreted as easily as country as they could be as singer-songwriter, general folk, bluegrass, Jewish/Israeli folk, or even rock. In this versatility of her material Winningham reminds of the late singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury.

The traditional and Hebrew material is likewise of the highest quality. Taken as a whole, Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime is a thoroughbred of an consistent album, and it would be very difficult to pick any particular favourites. Nonetheless, the album immediately hooks you with its opener, the lead single Valley of the Dry Bones. What an opener at that! And Mare Winningham and Refuge Rock Sublime simply won't let go after that, be it classics like Etz Chaim or Al Kol Ele, traditional material such as Wall of Prayer, or Winningham originals like the deeply (universally) spiritual and moving The World To Come or the likewise immensely spiritual and moving title track.

Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime is country music in the very best tradition of the genre, with all the deep feeling, spirituality and conviction of The Man in Black himself, the one and only Johnny Cash, just with a Jewish flavour. It therefore follows that it is also very rootsy, down to earth and honest to goodness folk. Refuge Rock Sublime is also very earthy bluegrass, at least, in large parts. And it's also equally at home in the singer-songwriter genre. Throw in Jewish/Israeli folk for good measure. This album will appeal hugely to all true connoisseurs of any of these genres. The deep, sincere emotion and spirituality, spirituality that is truly universal and not tied to any particular faith, and the utter conviction of Mare Winningham's renditions of these wonderful songs, underscored by outstanding melodies and good old-fashioned foot-tapping grooves, make Refuge Rock Sublime an album of simply universal appeal and irresistible charm.

The heart and soul of this album totally captivated mine. Ms. Winningham, for my money, could be described as a kind of All-American Chava Alberstein. But hey, just listen to the fabulous music! Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime certainly should be in any good music collection, regardless of genre baggage.

One can only hope that we'll see another album from the sublime Ms. Winningham soon.

© 2009 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Track List:

 1. Valley of the Dry Bones (Winningham) - 3:04
 2. Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) (Portnoy) - 2:36
 3. What Would David Do? (Winningham) - 2:58
 4. My Fixed Point (Winningham) - 3:15
 5. Wall of Prayer (Trad.) - 2:57
 6. The World To Come (Winningham) - 2:25
 7. Al Kol Ele (The Bitter and the Sweet) (Shemer) - 3:18
 8. The Ladder (Elias, Winningham) - 3:24
 9. Karev Yom (A Day Draws Near) (Trad.) - 2:58
10. Refuge Rock Sublime (Gabirol, Winningham) - 3:19
11. A Convert Jig (Winningham) - 3:02
12. Oh Moses (Winningham) - 3:39
13. Hatikvah (Hope) (Winningham) - 3:07

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Mare Winningham - vocals


Purchasing Info:

Refuge Rock Sublime can be purchased:
From numerous online sources, inc. as MP3s

From most major CD stores

From Jewish Music Distribution JMD UK

From Hatikvah Music International (US)

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