Very Jerry Records
Listening to Jerry Salley sing his latest batch of original songs brings to mind Rodney Crowell. Like Crowell, Salley has one of those personable, brightly-timbered, and immediately engaging voices, the kind that is perfect for the story songs they both write so well; songs that, while remaining catchy and tuneful, explore the nuances of life. Most of their work goes beyond the usual she left me and I’m so blue fare, and that is certainly the case with the majority of the 13 songs Salley and his 12 co-writers offer here.
Of course, there will always be a few standards on any release. “Comin’ Home To You,” the opener, would fall in that category. It is, however, rescued by a driving beat, a good melody, and a sharply barbed hook in the chorus. It would not be surprising to find it up the charts. A couple others strike me as straining a bit or are a bit over-dramatic, but that’s a matter of taste. Regardless, Salley is an excellent songwriter and song presenter. He can turn a phrase as well as anyone in the business, giving us memorable portraits of a man coming to grips and being proud of “showing his age” or of a woman whose great spirit tries to heal “The Broken Ones.” He can deftly twist the misunderstanding song, “Paper & Pen,” then in “Where I’m Coming From,” help us catalog our own upbringing.
Even in the current flexible state of bluegrass and, despite the presence of several stellar bluegrass musicians (among them Andy Leftwich, Aaron McDaris, and Rob Ickes), it would be hard to define much of this recording as anything but country. Drums and pedal steel abound beside traditional instruments, and the settings point toward Nashville more than Rosine. But, bluegrass or country, good is good and this is a very good recording. (Jerry Salley, P.O. Box 121041, Nashville, TN 37212, www.jerrysalley.com.)BW