Review: Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass – Bluegrass Troubadour

Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass have just released what is undoubtedly the finest recording of their career – Bluegrass Troubadour. Now I’ve always liked Danny because since he was a teenager he always hauled off and hit his music out of the park. POWERFUL singing and POWERFUL rhythm guitar playing. And he’s a really likable easy-going guy who has always been popular with the fans. Plus I like him because he represents the deep well of traditional bluegrass in the Keystone State.

He’s been awarded Male Vocalist of the Year by IBMA, and believe me, traditionalists (like me) went nuts when that happened! I see it happening again when this CD makes the rounds.

The first cut in this 10 song set is currently in rotation on Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction – “Blink of an Eye”. It’s a STARK song about aging. It is boldly composed – only three lines per verse, and per chorus (written by Bob Amos). I think that makes the song hit harder. Danny’s son Ryan is really contributing at full power now with his tenor singing. The duet is as good as any Louvin Brothers arrangement I can think of!

There are some other fine “new” songs here, from writers including Eric Gibson and Brink Brinkman. All good commercial material for Danny and the Southern Grass… As usual a few old favorites are included. The ever popular “Forty Years of Trouble,” “May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister,” and the old Carter Family number “Eat at the Welcome Table” help fill out the roster. “Welcome Table” features a particularly strong vocal trio. “Long Black Limousine” gets a slow thoughtful reading. A fine surprise is the old number “I’d Rather Live by the Side of the Road,” from Mac Wiseman, and covered by Charlie Waller with the Country Gentlemen. Danny really puts his own stamp on this song. The soaring tenor singing is provided by Lizzy Long who works in a duet show with banjo nut Li’l Roy Lewis. Ryan Paisley contributes a speedy mandolin instrumental he wrote called “Fancy Gap Runaway.”

Not just a “solid effort”. This recording is the best produced I’ve heard on Danny. Mark Delaney’s banjo sounds the best I’ve ever heard it. Ryan’s mandolin tone is superb – of course part of that is his growing mastery. The fiddling is a bit more modern than usual for Danny’s sound; there’s a new fiddler aboard named Matt Hooper, with whom I’m not yet familiar. I thought for a minute perhaps it was Ron Stewart, but the press release listed the new fiddler’s name. Matt is GOOD.

Best of all is Danny’s singing. Allison Krauss has called Danny her favorite male singer. That may be a little strong. But I’ve always liked Danny’s singing too, for his exuberance if nothing else. He can whip those high notes like Jimmy Martin, and he likes to slide down to good low notes too. As my mother would say “he puts a lot of ‘spression” in his singing!” Now that he’s well into middle age, his vocal timbre has smoothed just a little – he’s a little warmer. Don’t get me wrong, he can still bray any note he chooses. But age is being good to his voice; some of the rawest spots have been burnished a little.

This is an album of many pleasant surprises. Material, recorded sound/tone, bluegrass pickin’, POWER, warmth (!!) and even the cover art are all best quality. This is Danny’s first teaming with Pinecastle, and it works on every level.

This project is going to be regarded as an important milestone in Danny’s career. I highly recommend it.

Pinecastle Recording Company

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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