The Back Forty, so called to mark Marty Raybon’s 40th anniversary in the music business, is his latest release on the Rural Rhythm label (RR 1111). It consists of 10 songs, half of which Raybon helped to write and each of them is of an equally high standard.
The disc starts with what was the first single from album, That Janie Baker, an up-tempo tribute to a resourceful lady. It’s one of three songs that Raybon and John Fountain wrote together and on the evidence of that and their other two songs – the slow-tempoed A Little More Sawdust on the Floor and the love song Only You, Only You – it proves to be a very good partnership. A Little More Sawdust on the Floor has as strong a country music feel as one would expect from the title. Forget your frenetic life, take your partner and enjoy a slow glide across the dance floor.
Raybon has a hand in writing two other songs; The Big Burnsville Jail and Mountain Love. The former, written with Thom Case and Michael Bonagura, provides an insight into how an outlaw’s mind works, after all a cell is just a minor inconvenience! Mountain Love, which he wrote with Jerry Salley, with a banjo/fiddle intro, it has a modal feel that is reminiscent of Angeline the Baker.
Alongside these Marty sought equally strong songs that he has given the Raybon treatment. Firstly, is The Late Night Cry of the Whippoorwill, written by Paul Craft, Randall Hylton, Brenda Harrington and Kermit Teague; originally recorded by the Virginia Squires, Raybon delivers a great, keening version with excellent harmonies (more of that later).
Two other songs have been taken from the core of country music; a grassy version of Webb Pierce’s hit Slowly (I’m Falling), ratcheted up to 2/4 time from the original ballad arrangement, and She’s Just an Old Love Turned Memory, a recording of which by Charley Pride was a hit in 1974.
Hurt Me All the Time is of more recent vintage, but not to be confused with the 1998 album track by Joe Diffie. The Raymond Maynard – Nelson Terry Skinner – Lee Larry Wallace song is heavy with irony.
Lastly, Look For Me (For I will be There Too) is a Gospel song from the Happy Goodman Family repertoire into which Raybon injects delicate power and sincerity.
One of the plus points is the involvement of Marty’s brother, Tim, in singing harmony and the duo add their names to the list of siblings who excel in this regard.
There is a degree of subtly, and humour, in the lyrics in many cases that forces the listener to focus to get the most out of this short collection, which is a bit on the short side at only 30 minutes duration.
Instrumentally John Bradley (bass), Lewell Molen (guitar), Chris Wade (banjo), Zach Rambo (mandolin), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Daniel Grindstaff (banjo), Aaron Ramsey (bass), Scott Napier (mandolin), Tim Raybon (guitar), Matt Leadbetter (Dobro®) and Tim Laughlin (mandolin) make The Back Forty a solid bluegrass album throughout.
As far as the performance is concerned, it is strongly traditional with echoes of Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers.