Despite four critically acclaimed albums, a heap of media exposure, and membership in what may be folk's first true supergroup (the excellent Cry Cry Cry), singer/songwriter Lucy Kaplansky has yet to achieve the same degree of popular appeal accorded Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith, and other artists with whom she shares both style and songs.
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That injustice ought to be rectified with The Red Thread, a collection so affecting, so emotionally charged, that it's near impossible to listen to it and remain unmoved. Seizing on themes close to her heart -- the recent adoption of her daughter, witnessing the destruction of the World Trade Center during 9/11, her sketches of life in New York -- Kaplansky weaves a series of bittersweet ballads both eloquent and engaging. Aided by a number of returning collaborators -- fellow folkies Jonatha Brooke, Richard Shindell, Eliza Gilkyson, and John Gorka among them -- she wraps her rootsy arrangements around melodies with a country connection, from the homespun sentiment of "Cowboy Singer," written by the late Dave Carter, to Buddy Miller's ragged "Hole in My Head." The album hits its highs, however, with "Land of the Living" and "Brooklyn Train," two plaintive, reflective narratives that celebrate the dignity, spirit, and resilience of everyday individuals.