Respected sideman and songwriter serves up an overcooked banquet.
Ninian Dunnett 2010
Good grief, was that a snatch of twin lead guitar? There are those who would tell you Darrell Scott is pure country; after all, he played on Steve Earle’s Grammy-winner Townes, and his songs have been sung by Guy Clark, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson. But here’s a man who knows his 80s rock, too. Unfortunately.
Not that rock is the only problem. The record bristles with traditional instruments like lap steel, mandolin, banjo and even a harp (all played by Scott himself). But there’s not a rootsy line goes by without a sugaring of hackneyed pop rigmarole, whether it’s Elton John-style piano or Scott’s resolutely emotive baritone. Then there’s the 80s ballads, all ride cymbals and distorted guitars, clattering drum fills and girly choruses (again, incidentally, all performed by guess who).
It would be rude, admittedly, to deny that this is one of the sincerest records ever made; Scott loves his kids, misses his lover and walks a crooked road, and heaven protect him from cold-hearted critics. But it still falls to the latter to point out that an excess of the personal rarely brings out the best in songwriters, or their listeners.
Of course, artists like Scott are as important to the music industry as the Robert Plants. The promotional divide that separates a sideman or songwriter from a star is tricky at the best of times, and Scott’s recruitment into Plant’s reconstituted Band of Joy in 2010 may have seemed like a good excuse to push this overcooked banquet into the limelight.
But really, who needs to make a double album? The format is a byword for ego and pretension. And I’m afraid even if its gatefold sleeve does allow room to cram in 42 of Darrell Scott’s self-portraits, this self-produced, self-played piece of work won’t change that.