New England-based songwriter Rick Lang makes it clear he finds it hard to resist sharing a good story, and indeed, as indicated on his new Dark Shadow Recording album, A Tale To Tell, he’s clearly proficient when it comes to doing so. With a baker’s dozen original songs inspired by narratives that others passed his way, he offers each tale with eloquence and enthusiasm.
To his credit, he enlists an all-star group of collaborators to assist with his efforts, among them Becky Buller on fiddle and clawhammer banjo, Sam Bush and James Kee on mandolins, Justin Moses playing reso-guitar, Ned Luberecki on 5 string banjo, Todd Parks on bass, and producer Stephen “Mojo” Mougin on guitar. Others contribute the vocals as well, among them, Tim Stafford, Becky Buller, Trey Hensley, Kati Penn, Rick Faris, Shannon Slaughter, David Parmley, James Kee, Alan Bartram, Brandon Rickman, Luke Monday, and Stephen and Jana Mougin. As a result, there’s a verve and variety that provides added enticement.
Not surprisingly then, each entry resonates through a sense of detail that brings both the music and messaging to full fruition.
Still, Lang is the one that deserves the real credit here. His songs vary the mood as well as the tempo, starting with the upbeat opener, Sawmill Man, through the humble yet harrowing They Sawed Up a Storm, and the final farewell expressed with Soldier’s Last Request.
Each song makes for an affecting offering, both in terms of a decisive delivery and the exacting description Lang manages to etch with both skill and savvy. The homespun sentiment remains consistent throughout, some, such as Miner’s Son and Sawmill Man, by way of a first person perspective, and others — Johnstown Flood, Lost Town, Shadow in the Pines, Toodleoo, Wounds That Never Heal, and Cross Beside the Highway — through tales of tragedy and triumph. Lang and company succeed in commanding attention from the outset, allowing for an experience that resonates even after the final notes fade away.
Ultimately then, A Tale To Tell is an album that bears repeated listens, given that there’s finesse and fascination that can be enjoyed in sync. Indeed, these tales carry a clarity and conviction that’s well worthy of the promise the title provides.