Perhaps the most remarkable skill of New York-based old-time duo Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman is their ability to place canonical old-time material – fiddle tunes, ballads, breakdowns, hornpipes, transatlantic lyrics, and more – firmly in the present. Aided and abetted by their youth and their now longstanding musical collaboration, the two deftly entwine together timelessness and the fleeting, effervescent moment, leaving listeners on the edges of their seats as we cling to the temporal and seemingly miraculous space that opens up between them.
Brown and Coleman thrive behind NPR’s fabled Tiny Desk, all at once broad and bold while tender and understated, simple. Unadorned, but flush and full. Their new EP together, Lady of the Lake, features two of the numbers they performed at NPR’s headquarters in D.C., the title track and “Copper Kettle.” But they open their mini concert with a set, “Across the Rocky Mountains” and “The Old Blue Bonnet,” with Brown on guitar, before switching to her signature clawhammer banjo. For being so young – she only recently dropped the “Little” from her former stage moniker, Little Nora Brown – her voice carries an ancient ache. As their vocals resonate together in close harmony, Brown and Coleman remind of so many old-time, string band, and bluegrass duos that came before them, like Hazel & Alice, Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, and many more.
We hope then, like those impactful and influential duos that came before them, that Nora Brown and Stephanie Coleman continue to gift us with gorgeous music such as this for many decades to come.
Photo courtesy of Nick Loss-Easton Media