august 2009

Daryle Singletary
E1 Music

You don't have to get too far into Daryle Singletary's impressive new album to figure out where he's coming from: the spitfire guitars, wailing harmonica and aggressive drumming do a real good job of bringing the title track to life, and Singletary does his part with a fine, textured baritone growl and purr in the style of one of his main influences, John Anderson. It gets better from there, as the track catches fire while rushing forward, and suddenly—whoa!—there's Charlie Daniels strutting out on a fiery fiddle solo and even adding a punchy second vocal to the track, while exhorting Daryle to go for it. That's a good start to a long-awaited new album from one of country's finest, albeit still underrated, vocalists. As it turns out, Rockin' has been in the works since 2004, when its first sessions were completed just ahead of Koch Records closing its country division. When Koch returned to country with the E1 label, Singletary re-recorded some of the 2004 tracks and added some new performances to the mix. Like another of his vocal touchstones, Vern Gosdin, good things come to those who wait. And also like Gosdin, Singletary can put across a ballad even better than he can kick out the jams, which is saying something indeed. One of his finest and most sensitive readings ever graces the Harley Allen-Jimmy Mellon gem, "That's Why God Made Me," a story song about high school sweethearts who part but are reunited years later when the girl, still single, is carrying another man's baby. The former lovebirds find the flame still burns, marry, have children of their own and embrace the out-of-wedlock tot as one of their own, imparting to it the enduring nature of parental love, whether the child be theirs by blood or by fate. The shadow of Gosdin does more than loom in Singletary's voice and career arc—it's here literally in the form of the wrenching, twang-filled and steel-drenched heartbreaker, "How Can I Believe In You (When You'll Be Leaving Me)," Singletary taking its soaring, keening chorus for a good ride of his own, supported by a familiar, emotion-filled female voice belonging to Rhonda Vincent, who also did those honors on Singletary's 2007 long player, Straight From the Country. Working with his long-time collaborator Billy Lawson, Singletary co-wrote "She's a Woman," a warm, loving tribute to his paramour graced here with a relaxed, shuffling arrangement, tasty keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar punctuations and gentle, swirling, low-key steel work by Mike Johnson. There's a bit of sardonic humor at work here, too, in "She Sure Looks Good in Black," in which the singer is lusting after a widow at her husband's funeral ("she's just come to say goodbye/to a cold, old love that's died" is his presumed defense), no matter what the song's somber arrangement suggests about the solemnity of the occasion. As a bonus track, Singletary offers a stone-cold country treatment of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," slowing it down a bit from John Denver's original and heightening the song's country strains with Mike Johnson's cascading steel fills. A good collection of songs, arrangements that stay firmly in the traditional country pocket and uniformly engaging vocal renderings add up to another winner for Daryle Singletary. He's due—maybe overdue—for the bigger things music this strong should offer. —David McGee 

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024