Dennis K. Duff brings with him a wealth of tradition, much of it borne from his family’s own backstory revolving around their early settlement of Lyon County Kentucky. That of course adds authenticity, but equally importantly, it adds a genuine sense of homegrown sentiment that tugs on the heartstrings, while also adding a true personal perspective. These well-worn tales of a generation past reflect the region’s rich history, one that was accompanied by a steadfast devotion to the land, even as the rigors of Mother Nature, disease, moonshiners, and the encroachment of the TVA and big industry threatened their hardy resolve.
With help from some stalwart instrumental support — Cody Kilby on guitar and mandola, Jason Carter and Andy Leftwich on fiddles, Alan Bartram on bass and harmonies, and Brooke Aldridge and Paul Brewster helping out on vocals — Duff delivers a sensitive set of songs, rich with heartfelt emotion and a strikingly tender touch.
Duff’s investment in the material is obvious early on, and given songs that trace the actual events that shaped that rugged region, Songs From Lyon County often comes across like an episode straight out of a Ken Burns documentary. Whether singing of the vigilantes who took law and order into their own hands (Night Riders), the folks that farmed the land (TC and Pearl), natural disaster (37 Flood), or a deep-rooted connection to the land of their forebears (When I Leave Kentucky), Duff treats the material with the reverence it deserves, evoking a wellspring of honesty and integrity. The songs float along like an old mountain creek or the clouds coasting over the horizon. Effortlessly affecting, it’s an album that practically begs repeated listens, if for no other reason that to simply soak up the radiance and resilience it entails.
As a songwriter project, some of the tracks are sung by Dennis himself, others performed by such stellar artists as Bradley Walker, Holly Pitney, or the aforementioned Darin and Brooke Aldridge.
Adding to that enrichment, Duff shares the song lyrics in a tidy inner booklet that features haunting imagery that helps illustrate the songs. As an indie artist, Duff displays considerable ambition, not only in his rich arrangements but in his presentation overall. A label would be wise to give him the attention he deserves and aid him in bringing more of this memorable music our way.