Jerry Salley’s songs resonate, and well they should. A denizen of Nashville for nearly 40 years, he’s had his music covered by scores of artists that inhabit the realms of country, bluegrass, and Gospel — Toby Keith, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Dale Ann Bradley, Brad Paisley, Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley, John Anderson, The Seldom Scene, Mountain Heart, Lonesome River Band, The Whites, and Loretta Lynn in amongst the many. And while his association with these marquee names is obviously impressive, so are his dozens of chart-topping hits and the impressive list of honors he’s personally accumulated as well — among them, a Grammy, several Dove Award nominations, and consistent praise from such prestigious organizations as SESAC and the IBMA.
With Salley’s latest offering, Bridges and Backroads, the reasons for Salley’s success has never been more apparent. These are songs of inspiration, comfort and compassion, woven together with his heartstrings, and rendered as homespun homilies that convey simple truths that ought to be remembered, especially in times like these when struggle and strife tend to dominate and divide. Let Me Be the Bridge, How I Want to Be Remembered, Be Better to Your Neighbor, Life To My Days, and Without Forgiveness offer both solace and strength, all touching examples of how music and meaning can be melded together without sacrificing the impact of either. Granted, none of the messages shared here are revelatory in any way, but in an era that’s often engulfed by cynicism and strife, they remind us that decency is still a timeless virtue, and doing right by one’s neighbor has merit and meaning.
That said, not every offering on Bridges and Backroads is necessarily aimed at a higher plateau. Miss My Miss In Mississippi, Dyin’ to Hold Her Again, You Can’t Hear a Heart Break, and Hillbilly Lilly share romantic notions as intertwined with tenderness and compassion. Given those sweet sentiments, the clarity and conviction remain consistent throughout. Salley’s not the type to come across as preachy or self-righteous, but rather as someone who’s eager to share affirmation, and with it, lessons that are well learned.
In that regard, Bridges and Backroads is an essential album, one that imparts the kind of wisdom that can always be both cherished and trusted. Here again, Salley serves us well.