Music » Critics' Picks

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

Friday, January 20; the Focal Point (2720 Sutton Avenue, Maplewood)

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With a voice somewhere between Janis Ian's diffident warmth and Nanci Griffith's hillbilly twee, Stacey Earle grabs her guitar-slinging hubby Mark Stuart and heads all the way down the peace-praise folkie road in a way that her increasingly earnest big brother Steve wouldn't dare. Even in polite Americana, good intentions only go so far — so the duo swings a bit, Stuart zips out Merle Travis licks like a front-porch ringer, and they mostly channel non-denominational Christianity into gospel sounds (though images of blessing the wine and supplicating before Daddy aren't exactly subliminal). The duo's country-folk would never cut it in a honky-tonk, but that's just as well: Earle and Stuart's close harmonies will sparkle in the faux-house-concert setting of the Focal Point.

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