CD-238 Danny Paisely & The Southern Grass "Road Into Town"
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Danny Paisley has the edge. You can hear it in his voice, in his band, and in his choice of song. it's an edge forged in a time and region where bluegrass was as likely to be heard in honky-tonks and saloons as it was in school houses and town squares. Where the high lonesome sound was as likely to be found after dark in smoky bars as sunny afternoons in the park. Where you played your music for hardscrabble (not to mention hard-drinking) men, instead of the families they were looking to remember. Or forget.
Carrying on for his father, the late and legendary Bob Paisley since 2004, Danny Paisley and Southern Grass have proceeded to bring that edge to the bluegrass masses, culminating with 2009's IBMA song of the year, "Don't Throw Mama's Flowers Away."
Now Danny Paisley and Southern Grass are back with their first Patuxent Music Release, Road Into Town. The title track, a cautionary tale of mineral rights in a mining town, is lent particularly gravity by Mr. Paisley, as such songs carry more credibility in the hands of a singer who sounds as if he has lived what he is singing. The opener is followed closely by a tribute to father Bob, with a spirited version of "Margie," once recorded by the senior Paisley
One aspect of Danny Paisley's music I have always appreciated is, he's never forgotten that the roots of bluegrass run deep in country music, and that there once was much intermingling of the two. Danny provides two noteworthy examples born of this tradition, starting with an exquisitely heart-wrenching take on Carl Smith's under-appreciated lament, "I Overlooked an Orchid," and bassist Eric Troutman is featured on lead vocal (and walking bass), as the band immerses itself in shuffle-beat honky-tonk on Ray Price's "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You." Paisley also delivers a couple of fine solo vocal performances, starting with a notably poignant solo reading of Canadian songwriter Mike O'Reily's forlorn "Falling Falling," and sings "Alcatraz Island Blues" with more conviction than anybody since the place was still open.
But there's still plenty of hard-core bluegrass to be found here. Vern and Ray's chestnut "Cabin on a Mountain" is rescued from obscurity in fine and proper duet form. We get some Nashville Grass-era Lester with a rollicking version of "I Been Walkin'" that serves as one of the albums finer highlights. Finally, the album closes, quite properly, with a bluegrass gospel quartet standard, "I Heard My Mother Call My Name in Prayer," imbued here with plenty of Mr. Paisley's edge.
As worthy of note as Danny's singing and song choice are, I would be remiss not to mention the talents of the rest of The Southern Grass. Doug Meek (fiddle), Mark Delaney (banjo) and special guest Michael Cleveland (mandolin and second fiddle) provide ample evidence that it is possible to pick as hot as anyone and still play with soul and guts, while bassist Eric Troutman keeps them all in line. In an age when most bluegrass is finessed and sanitized within an inch of its life, when more focus is commonly put on technique and craftsmanship than expression and feeling, it's uplifting that there is still a band like this out there, feeling the songs, not merely playing them. Danny Paisley has the edge. if you are holding this cd in your hands, now you do too. - Joseph L. Scott