RootsTime Ragged Heart CD Review 9/8/19 - Belgium
It seems strange that we have never previously covered this amazing duo in our reviews. Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo started off in Minneapolis, lingered in Los Angeles, and eventually ended up in Portland, Oregon. For over twenty years they have been on the road as a couple, and as musical companions. Along the way, they have had their fair share of obstacles. Maria’s battle with an autoimmune disease and thyroid cancer threw a serious wrench in the works, but the duo survived as a couple and found healing in their musical partnership.
Today, they have discovered their place in a thriving musical community in Portland. They have just released their second album. Their first album came out in 2016, Let Go or Be Dragged, a record that scored well locally and received airplay on multiple radio stations. This wasn't the first time that Jeff and Maria got airplay: a quarter of a century ago, when they still played with The Ruby Trees, their "Hey (what are you doing?)" got a spot on volume 3 of the compilation album "A Town South of Bakersfield", where their name appeared beside that of Wylie & The Wild West, Harry Dean Stanton, Rick Shea, Ronnie Mack and Sid Griffin. If you have this compilation album on your shelf, the release of Ragged Heart may be the perfect opportunity to listen to it again. That way, you can acknowledge the evolution this duo has experienced in those 26 years. Their artistry has reached a certain maturity that is evident in their beautifully rich melodies and seamlessly paired vocals. These melodies seem to be folk, country and blues infused, and easily conjure up the names of Buddy & Julie Miller and Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart as a reference.
Jeff and Maria have written all the songs and play all the guitar parts. Some of the tracks such as the heavenly "Check Out to Cash” are accompanied by pedal steel bringing the tunes to unprecedented heights. That number is not the only highlight: opener "Blue Earth County" hits the bull’s eye in true Bakersfield style. You can find the video of “Blue Earth County” on their website. I can also highly recommend "Faded Tattoo" that starts off with a striking guitar riff. "Like a River" has a reminiscent feel, while the closing tune "Such a Mess" has a wonderfully slow groove, which to me seemed like a paradox on this fine album. I had the feeling that this duo is at its best on the slightly faster numbers, until that last song, and I felt goose bumps coming up again and again.
Ragged Heart is the work of a mature duo who have discovered how two voices can use harmonies to lift each other and their music to an even better and higher level.
(Translated by Mouchette Van Helsdingen)