Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

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Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

It’s been five years since Guthrie and Irion’s Exploration album showcased their knack for navigating country, pop, folk, and rock – and their ability to write engaging songs with gorgeous sounds.

The duo’s talent is obvious from the opening cut, “Ahead of Myself,” which delivers via a spooky, haunting feel with slightly reverbed guitar and a great hook/guitar changes. Otherwise, throughout the disc, their voices blend with near perfection; Guthrie’s supplying the lovely voice while Irion’s is high and wispy, sometimes bringing to mind Neil Young.

Joined by fine artists including Gary Louris and Mark Olson (formerly of the Jayhawks), the former’s influence is especially strong on the brilliant “First Snow.” The guitar changes are stunning, the vocals magnificent, and the steel guitar of Charlie Rose is perfect.

Punchy guitars highlight the melancholy of the title cut, while “Hurry Up and Wait” is a big acoustic anthem with Rose’s steel darting in and out, and a lovely twangy solo doing the same on the way out. A blistering solo bolsters the acoustic-waltz feel and reminiscing lyric of “Dupont Circle.”

This disc’s 12 songs cover a lot of ground. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait five years for the next record from this fine duo.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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