After a brief liaison with Rounder Records, the latest CD from Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass, Road into Town, has been released by Patuxent Music, (PX CD-238).
Paisley has an edge to his voice so hard that it cuts through nano-scale diamonds. He’s a throwback to the early days of bluegrass and he surrounds himself with musicians who match the drive of his guitar playing. In this instance they are Mark Delaney (banjo), Doug Meek (fiddle), Eric Troutman (bass) and Michael Cleveland (mandolin and second fiddle).
The voices are right on and the picking is full of vigour so the other ingredients that make a great album are the songs. Chris Stuart should be very pleased with Paisley’s rendition of his Road into Town, a song with an unusual subject matter – mineral rights – but, judging by the intensity of the vocals, one that Paisley possibly had some direct knowledge. Another recent original is well-respected Canadian Mike O’Reilly’s Please Stop Falling.
Remembering his roots, the spirit of Danny’s father Bob is well to the fore in the re-visiting of his repertoire for Margie.
While still in that era, Paisley draws the attention of contemporary listeners to the closeness that existed between classic traditional country and early bluegrass music with three great examples of the genre; Claude Boone’s You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, I Overlooked an Orchid, thought to have been written by struggling songwriter Arthur Q. Smith, and the Ray Price No. 1 hit of 1957, My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (actually sung by Troutman, and a fine job he does too!). It is clearly evident that Paisley loves these old songs.
He reaches further back for Alcatraz Island Blues (penned by Alton Delmore) recorded in 1938 for Bluebird by one of the great brother acts of early country music, the Delmore Brothers.
Very much in keeping with these are I Saw Your Face in the Moon (from Mac Wiseman’s repertoire), I (sic) Been Walking (Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass), Cabin on a Mountain (originally from one of the most under-appreciated traditional bluegrass combinations Ray Park and Vern Williams), closing with Red Smiley’s four-part Gospel number, I Heard my Mother Call my Name in Prayer.
There’s some blistering mandolin picking and hot twin fiddling on Tommy Jackson’s Cherokee Shuffle and on the Mark Delaney composition Dancin’ with Sally.
For songs with a slower tempo picks include You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover and My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You.
Paisley mixes raw power with heavy bluesy overtones. It’s enough to keep one warm during bleak winter nights.
Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass performed Margie at the IBMA’s Fan Fest in 2011.