Usually around this time of year, cabin fever gets to me. In anticipation of the coming festival season, I play a little game, creating an imaginary festival and deciding what bands what I would invite.
It’s a fun exercise, especially since I don’t have to worry about money – in my head I can afford the Sam Bush Band, Del McCoury AND the Seldom Scene? – or the weather.
This year’s game was over quickly, thanks to the arrival of Oh Darlin’ from Dale Ann Bradley & Tina Adair. The sparkling recording from the Pinecastle Recording Co. gave me the idea for the best festival I’ve dreamed up in all the years of dreaming them up.
Welcome to Dale Fest – all Dale Ann Bradley, all the time. The entire lineup would feature Dale Ann in her all incarnations – the Dale Ann Bradley Band, Sister Sadie, and now, Bradley & Adair. There might even be a few more pairings she hasn’t let us know about yet.
Anyone who has heard Sister Sadie knows the magic that comes from blending the voices of Dale Ann and Tina. Here, on 10 duet arrangements of well-known songs across genres, they take the vocals from sublime to just about heavenly. No hyperbole. The singing is that good.
Add in pared back instrumentation that is mostly Bradley’s guitar and Adair’s mandolin, and Pinecastle has come up with a surefire entry for this year’s bluegrass awards contests. And not just from the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if this dynamic duo winds up on the Grammys short list, as well.
The tone is set from the top with the title cut, a mid-’80s country Top 10 for the O’Kanes. It’s the only track on the CD that includes both bass (Curtis Vestal) and banjo (Scott Vestal). The combination helps drive the song, but I don’t miss it on the others.
What follows is a string of songs that many listeners will be familiar enough to sing along to on first listen, including The Log Train and Singing Waterfall, both from Hank Williams Sr., and Eddy Arnold’s Mommy Please Stay Home With Me.
Also on that list of highly familiar songs, and my favorite here, is Apartment #9. The Johnny Paycheck-Bobby Austin classic has been recorded more than a dozen times, most notably by George Jones and Tammy Wynette. But those two stars have nothing on Bradley and Adair, who wring every bit of emotion from the devastating lyrics.
Other favorites – there’s not a filler song to be heard – are Harlan Howard’s Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, and Send Me, co-written by Jefferson Ross and Thomm Jutz, which combines Gospel sentiments with some sweet swing guitar from Jim Hurst.
Jump on this one. If you wait for something better to come along, you might be waiting a long time.
And now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got to get to planning Dale Fest.