Doyle Lawson talks Life Is A Story, with track premiere

Doyle Lawson has spent a lot of time playing bluegrass. From performing with Jimmy Martin as a teen, and J.D. Crowe as a young man, through an 8 year stint with The Country Gentlemen, and his now 38 year run leading his own group, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, this is a man who knows what works in this market. Few groups in any sort of music have survived as long as his, nor endured the recurring personnel changes that occurred as Doyle’s musicians learn the business and branch out on their own, repeatedly. But Lawson just keeps chugging right along, hiring new sidemen, releasing new hit records, and working a demanding schedule that takes him all over the United States month after month.

With a new album, Life Is A Story, out tomorrow on Mountain Home Music, we had a chance to chat with Doyle about the record, and the boys he has on the road with him now. And Mountain Home has agreed to share a track with our readers, posted below.

First off, we asked Doyle his overall impressions of the new project.

“I’m pretty doggone happy about this one. I’m not a locked in by design [alternating between Gospel and secular releases], but it does seem to work out that way. I just sort of go the way the flow is going. I pay attention to what people say about my music, and try to go with what seems to be what most of them are saying.”

And his current band (Joe Dean on banjo, Eli Johnston on bass, Josh Swift on reso-guitar, Dustin Pyrtle on guitar, and Stephen Burwell on fiddle)?

“I’m very happy with these guys. There’s a chemistry and a magic there that’s really special. I’m not sure how it really happens, but it’s a well-oiled machine. Everyone is doing their part.”

That’s high praise from a man whose band has included such current bluegrass luminaries as Russell Moore, Jamie Dailey, Steve Gulley, Jim Mills, Scott Vestal, Terry Baucom, Lou Reid and many others over the years.

The 12 songs included range from new compositions by top Nashville songwriters like Jerry Salley and Donna Ulisse, to covers of country hits from several years ago, and one Doyle and Paul Williams just recently completed.

“It doesn’t matter where you find a song. It can become a bluegrass song by how you approach it.

I wanted to get some traditional bluegrass in there with I See A Heartbreak Comin’. Paul and I wrote that one. He started on it many years ago, but he never finished it. He sent it to me and I asked him if I could rewrite it a bit, and he liked what I did. So it’s an old song that’s never been recorded before.

What Am I Living For came to me on the way home from lunch one day in the studio. It was a hit for Chuck Willis in 1957, and I always liked the song. It makes a nice mid-tempo waltz number.”

Perhaps the song most likely to pop out from this record is their reworking of one called The Little Girl, written some years ago by Harley Allen, and a huge hit for John Michael Montgomery in 2000. It’s a poignant tale of a young girl who grew up in a family of violence and addiction, who witnessed her parents’ murder-suicide while hiding behind the couch. As the song goes along, the little girl finds her way into a nice foster home and is shocked one day to see a crucifix hanging in church, where she recognizes the man on the cross as the one who comforted her behind the couch that dreadful night.

Doyle says that he had thought several times about recording it, but wanted to give some space between Montgomery’s version and one of their own. It’s a remarkable song that really plays on your emotions, going from desperate sadness to incredible joy in just a few minutes.

“That one is sometimes kind of hard on me. It’s been a few years since it was on the radio. I had known Harley since he was a teenager – such a great writer, and singer in his own right. The guys in the band love the song, and have asked a couple times about recording it, but I would always say, ‘let’s wait a while.’

I had heard Harley do it live somewhere before it was a hit, and loved it right away. Eli did a great job here for us. The timbre of his voice was perfectly suited for that song.

It hits home with me. My mother was raised in foster care, and when I listened to the lyrics, it really got to me.

I brought the parents back in to end the song, and closed it with ‘Oh what a beautiful life!’ It fits in well with Life To My Days. That first line got my attention right away. Those two songs were probably the springboard to the album’s title.”

And our feature track, Hard Workin’ Man, is one that happened right there in the studio.

“Eli and them wrote Hard Workin’ Man in the other room while Josh and I were listening to mixes. I said, ‘Boys, I worked on a farm and on a lot of day jobs, so I know about the life of a hard workin’ man.’ “

Life Is A Story will be available tomorrow (8/25) wherever CDs and downloads are sold.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.