The Couchville Sessions
(Full Light/Thirty Tigers)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
On paper, this is Americana veteran singer-songwriter Darrell Scott’s first solo album in four years. But the full story is more complicated.
Multi-instrumentalist Scott convened in his living room on the titular street back in 2001/’02 with legendary bassist Danny Thompson, drummer Kenny Malone, and famed pedal and lap steel man Dan Dugmore. Together they recorded these 14 tracks, (9 originals, 5 covers) live to tape. But those tapes sat collecting dust for fifteen years until Scott recently revisited them. He brought in Little Feat co-founder Billy Payne and others for overdubs and is now first releasing them from dimly lit vaults into the often blinding glare of public consumption.
It was a smart move.
“We won’t give a damn if it’s rock, folk, country or blues,” he sings about music he played during his formative years in the joyous “Down to the River” (not the Neil Young song). It’s a perfect introduction to an album that includes all of those genres, often in a single selection. Scott must have been in a James Taylor state of mind since not only does he cover his “Another Grey Morning” but writes a new tune “It’s About Time” that sounds like it either came from Taylor or was penned for him.
Scott bites the hand that feeds him poking fun at the expense of radio DJs on “Morning Man” (“got a fat man laughing at all my jokes”), and gets serious on the Celtic strains of the biting “It’s Another Day” (“to live and die,” ends the chorus), a co-write with longtime partner Tim O’Brien. Scott has a knack for delivering songs with passion, especially on “Love is the Reason” that cries out for the audience to sing along.
A potent, slowed down cover of Hank Williams’ “Rambling Man” drags the classic through the swamp, making it even more powerful on a nearly seven minute version that is surely one of the song’s most haunting versions. Ditto for Johnny Cash’s “Big River” that gets twanged up and tightened down, and a rowdy, rocking take on Peter Rowan’s “Moonlight Midnight,” featuring Dugmore’s cutting slide.
Scott’s in fine, unforced voice throughout and the comfy family room vibe keeps the arrangements open yet intoxicating. This isn’t a jam session but this music breathes with relaxed warmth. It begs the question that if Scott had these superb performances tucked away for so long, what else is lurking in his vaults?