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The sessions that produced Out In The Open were brisk and instinctive, expansive yet intimate, visceral and immediate - and they would have had to be, for herein are songs that tell the big story by drawing the small ones. There is, to my ear, as much of Raymond Carver's literate and humane influence on display as the Osborne Brothers, as much Welty in the pointed details - both sublime and confounding - as Clark and Van Zandt. Compassion and determination act as connective tissue when, throughout this song cycle, the bones, muscle, and blood of daily life dance with loose-limbed motion toward the inevitable, guided by an ethos best articulated by Sam Beckett who directed that when we falter, we try again and ''fail better.''

While in the studio, the Rangers stood in a circle - facing each other and the music with a well-worn brotherhood that was as well open to all they could not imagine transpiring between them. The songs were written as a map, and their shared history a compass blade, but the road itself - the journey - was a moving target and, as with all relevant music, remains one. And the Steep Canyon Rangers are moving along with it. - Joe Henry