“I can’t wait to hear what Cox comes up with next. And here’s hoping she brings Salley along for the ride. This is one of those special pairings that cries out to be preserved.”
Now, Cox is back with Ricochet, her first CD for Mountain Fever Records, and I’m pleased to see that Salley produced again and is a writer on half of the project’s 12 cuts. The partnership still rocks; Ricochet is better than Part of Me, which made my list of top bluegrass recordings of 2016.
The Australian-born Cox is a commanding presence in front of the microphone, on stage, and in the studio. From the sass of the title cut to a heartbreaking duet with Brandon Rickman on A Bed This Cold, Cox stakes a claim as one of the top 10 female vocalists in the genre.
This time she also demonstrates growth as a songwriter. All three songs she co-wrote – South To North Carlolina, with Salley and Michael Rogers; Right Where You Left It, with Salley and Alex Dooley; and Sweet English Rose (with Allan Caswell) – are among the best on the CD, in terms of both lyrics and melody.
My overall favorites are A Bed This Cold, written by Salley and Rickman, and the previously mentioned Sweet English Rose. That’s probably not a surprise to regular readers. I’m a sucker for sad songs (Bed) and story songs (Rose), and Cox milks the emotion from each of them, with stout backing from Jason Roller (doubling on fiddle and guitar on the CD), Justin Moses (dobro and mandolin) and others. She’s got a dream team of vocalists behind her, too, including Salley, Rickman, Donna Ulisse, Rogers, Josh Swift and Maggie Salley.
Jerry Salley is an accomplished producer. But I want to focus some attention on Salley as a songwriter. He is, perhaps, the most-prolific writer in bluegrass over the last few years. But it’s not just quantity. His name regularly appears in the writing credits of songs on the Bluegrass Today chart and other charts, a good yardstick for measuring quality.
So here’s a question I can’t answer: How is it that Jerry Salley hasn’t been honored as songwriter of the year by IBMA? Maybe, with strong songs here and dozens of others on other high-profile projects, this will be his year. It shouldn’t shock anybody if it is.
Awards, of course, aren’t necessary to prove someone’s worth or importance. All you have to do is listen. Do it once to Ricochet and I’m willing to bet you’ll come bouncing back for more.
And, like me, you’ll likely find yourself looking forward to the next volume of work from this dynamic duo.