Review: Third Time is the Charm for Up and Coming Singer/Songwriter Drayton Farley

Drayton Farley
Twenty On High
(Hargrove Records/Thirty Tigers)
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Impressive as singer/songwriter Drayton Farley’s first two albums were-both stripped down to just acoustic guitar and his emotional voice— this one with a full band introduces him as an Americana artist whose time has arrived.

Produced by Sadler Vaden, longtime guitarist in Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit and a respected solo artist in his own right (also fresh off a production hit with Morgan Wade), it comes as little surprise that Farley’s vocals and overall musical approach have a remarkable, occasionally uncanny, resemblance to those of Isbell.

Regardless, Farley’s artfully composed, descriptive, often brooding lyrics, engaging, fresh-faced vocals, and effortlessly melodic tunes display a talented artist ready to take his career to the next level.

On this disc’s first single “Norfolk Blues,” about his time working on the railroad, he sings The days are all long and the years they’re short…. Work all day until the days all spent/Can’t afford to break so you always bend. It shows how sharply focused his observations are as the tough yet supple supporting musicians respond with taut professionalism inspired by the flexible drive of Springsteen’s E Street outfit.

Farley describes his bouts with depression in the strummy “Something Wrong (Inside My Head)” articulating an honesty and self-deprecation rare in even the most scrupulously introspective music. He’s just as serious on “Devil’s in NOLA” as he meets the titular demon in the form of a dancer who begs him to save her from this awful place I’m in as Kristin Weber’s demonic fiddle and Vaden’s strangled guitar follows the downward spiral of that relationship. The disc’s title track floats like the Eagles’ classic debut when he further explains the dead-end existence of his previous railroad life as a young adult with What did you expect of an adolescent kid/Who was all out of allegiance to pledge.     

Farley returns to just his lone acoustic guitar and vocals on the melancholy closing “All My Yesterdays Have Passed.” The stark accompaniment highlights the disconsolate lyrics of This world will rip you right in two/ leave you ragged in the rain. Then, ending with a glimmer of hope singing There’s a sun behind this darkness and darkness cannot last

Despite the overall gloom that underscores his words and general outlook, these songs have subtly soaring melodies that stick with you long after the last notes fade. Hopefully, the response to this superb, moving, and somewhat hopeful set will bring brighter days to Drayton Farley’s future.

He deserves them.

Photo by Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Steve Earle Announces Return of John Henry’s Friends Benefit Concert