Album Review of
Apple & Setser

Written by Joe Ross
October 9, 2022 - 2:39pm EDT
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It’s been over a decade since I reviewed the eclectic, acoustic album from Brad Apple, Pam Kirby & Gary Rounds, an Arkansas-based group that was building a legion of dedicated, appreciative fans. Ten years later, it’s a real pleasure to hear Brad Apple and Pam Setser continue their presentation of beautifully thoughtful, rootsy material full of pensive moments and wistful remembrances. They are joined by guest musicians Tim Crouch, David Johnson, Sam Cobb and Danny Crawford. Embellished with traditional instrumentation of guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, viola, bass and a bit of dulcimer, Dobro, piano, Apple & Setser describe life in their neck of the Mountain View woods with a variety of songs from both the public domain and their own pens.

Sharing lead and harmony vocal duties, the duo bookends their album with traditional songs, “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane” and “When You and I Were Young, Maggie.” Apple’s engaging originals include “Grandma Danced with the Arkansas Traveler” and “A Friend You’d Never Met,” while Setser sings her self-penned “Too Far Gone” and strums her dulcimer on an original instrumental, “Hayes’ Hoedown.” Their eclectic nature is best portrayed in the juxtaposition of tracks 7 & 8 that segue from an emotionally-charged rendition of Paul Anka’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” to Jim & Jesse’s rousing “I’ll Love Nobody But You.”    

Performing officially as a duo since 2017, Apple & Setser actually have played music together on and off for 30 years and have similar performing backgrounds in their respective family bands. Both grew up playing music at the Ozark Folk Center and traveling the region. Pam's discography includes four albums with The Simmons Family Band, five mountain dulcimer albums with her mother (Jean Jennings), and three solo albums (At Last, Crooked Ridge, Now). Pam once stated that she enjoys a diversity of Americana music and said that at the end of the day, it’s all about the song, its melody and message.  

Multi-instrumentalist Brad Apple hosts a podcast, Acoustic Music Talk, that was nominated for Best Publication/Podcast at the 2022 Arkansas Country Music Awards. Brad’s family ran The Apple Family Bluegrass Festival from 1979 to 1984, and he was the audio mastering engineer at Raney Recording Studio in Drasco, Ark., for 10 years.

Now, Apple & Setser regularly perform together at the Mountain View Meeting Place in Mountain View, Ark. In 2022, they were nominated for Best Acoustic Act at the Arkansas Country Music Awards. Showing their adept ability in a multitude of genres including folk, bluegrass, and country, Apple & Setser are talented musicians who nicely complement each other and have again struck gold with an engaging project that gives us a kaleidoscope of beautiful acoustic music. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)