In the 1990s, there was a very popular sound in bluegrass featuring smooth male vocals and a polished, contemporary sound. Ronnie Bowman was perhaps the prime exemplar of this style. The projects he recorded, both with Lonesome River Band and on his own, contained a mix of his original songs and bluegrass classics, set off by his passion-laden voice.
Of course elements of this highly-influential sound still linger in current bluegrass music, and it came to mind immediately as I listened to the new, self-titeld EP from Daniel Salyer. Here is one of the finest young songwriters in bluegrass, who has been given a voice of stunning clarity and range.
Five of the seven tracks are Salyer originals, including his Jack Up The Jail, a barn burning moonshine number previously recorded by the aforementioned Lonesome River Band. They are complemented by a faithful recollection of Flatt & Scruggs’ Someone Took My Place With You and Daniel’s vocal tour de force treatment of Marcia Henry’s Gospel song, Beautiful Valley.
The short form CD opens with Down To The Bottom, an anthem to lost love that earns Salyer the Ronnie Bowman comparison.
This Song honors the trials of the working man, the drunkard, and the downhearted in general. He’s “singing this song for them.”
No bluegrass album feels complete without a waltz time song of woe. Here we get True Love’s Just A Lie, where the singer regrets having to learn what the title suggests.
Closing things out is Jack Up The Jail, the defiant tale of a whiskey maker who warns his jailers that he’s on his way.
Top level support is provided by Elmer Burchett on banjo, Matt Flake on fiddle, Brandon Green on reso-guitar and banjo, Alex Hibbitts on mandolin, and Kameron Keller on bass. Salyer plays guitar and sings all the vocal parts.
Daniel tells us that this self-produced project isn’t expected to be in wide circulation and, as such, there are no audio samples online, nor a way to order it digitally. But don’t let that deter you from taking the extra trouble to get a copy of this fine album. Salyer is a tremendous talent, well worthy of your attention.