ABOUT "MODERN HYMNS":
Darrell Scott has already proved he can write great songs of universal appeal. More than 75 artists have covered his compositions, riding several of them into the Top 5 country singles charts. He penned the 2007 Americana Song of the Year (“Hank Williams’ Ghost”), and was named Songwriter of the Year by ASCAP in 2002 and by the Nashville Songwriters Association International the previous year.
He’s also a solo artist with six previous CDs (including his collaboration with modern bluegrass pioneer Tim O’Brien, Real Time, containing two Grammy nominated songs), a multi-instrumentalist (guitars, Dobro, bouzouki, and most other things with strings, piano . . . ), a first-call sessionman for everyone from Steve Earle to Joan Baez to Rascal Flatts, and a producer (Guy Clark, Susan Werner, his father, Wayne Scott, and his own CDs).
On Modern Hymns, Scott’s first CD for Appleseed Recordings, his mission is to showcase “songs and artists/songwriters whose music shook me as a kid (with ears nearly as big as my heart). They guided the way to my own path as a singer-songwriter . . . These songs speak to the human condition . . . in all of our aching and beautiful glory . . . These songs are the truth . . .”
Scott has the life experiences and musical chops to add his own imprint to the classics of the modern country and contemporary singer-songwriter movements that he covers here. His soulful, low-key tenor voice rings wise, honest and vulnerable on material as varied as Gordon Lightfoot’s “All the Lovely Ladies,” Bob Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You,” John Hartford’s “Nobody Eats at Linebaugh’s Anymore” (Darrell’s version includes John’s son Jamie on mandolin and backing vocals), and Leonard Cohen’s “Joan of Arc” (featuring Mary Gauthier and Alison Krauss on vocals). The songs all share an undercurrent of melancholy and regret for emotional opportunities lost and times past, as well as stellar musical support by Scott, bluegrass great Del McCoury (harmony vocal on Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going”), “newgrass” and roots mainstays Sam Bush (fiddle), Tim O’Brien (mandolin, vocals on Paul Simon’s “American Tune”), Dirk Powell (banjo, fiddle), and Stuart Duncan (fiddle), the Fisk Jubilee Singers, revered British folk/jazz acoustic bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle, Richard Thompson, Donovan), among many others.
The great Texas songwriter Guy Clark is represented not only by his hushed, hymn-like “That Old Time Feeling,” but by one of his flamenco guitars, played by Darrell on the track. There’s also a lovely, flowing, banjo-led take on Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays’ “James,” a near-instrumental in honor of James Taylor with wordless vocal accompaniment by Moira Smiley. Grammy-winning engineer Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss & Union Station, Dolly Parton, John Prine) and Darrell, recording “live” in the state-of-the art Blackbird Studios in Nashville, perfectly capture the prevalent musical mood – a simple, natural blend of acoustic country, bluegrass and folk without artifice or exaggeration, just like Darrell’s vocals and just like the songs he writes – the truth.
ABOUT DARRELL SCOTT:
You need more than guts and good intentions to record a convincing all-covers CD of songs by the modern-day pantheon of great singer-songwriters, from Bob Dylan to Mickey Newbury to Joni Mitchell. You have to add something special and personal to reignite oft-heard standards – musical talent, sure, but also a depth of feeling, experience and understanding. And Darrell Scott, from his genes to his genius as a sensitive vocalist, an award-winning songwriter of depth and perception, and a versatile instrumentalist, has earned that right.
Born on a tobacco farm in London, Ky., in 1959, and raised in E. Gary, Ind., Darrell was part of a musical family. His father Wayne, a steelworker by trade but a songwriter in his heart, moved his clan to Southern California when Darrell was 11. Soon Darrell and brothers Denny, Dale, Don, and David were part of their dad’s band, getting on-the-job training in country music as they played its hits on the stages of roadhouses and taverns as far north as Alaska.
Darrell eventually left the band and California, paying some more musical dues in Toronto and in Boston and earning a degree in poetry from nearby Tufts University, where he also studied literature. With his lyric skills sharpened and his instrumental abilities on guitar, banjo and numerous other instruments already road-tested, Darrell followed his muse to country music’s Ground Zero, Nashville. His key to entering Music Row’s inner circles was, at first, his string-slinging skills – starting in 1992, he appeared on albums by alt.country mavericks Guy Clark (for whom he later produced two CDs) and Steve Earle, Randy Travis, Patty Loveless, and dozens more.
As his “day job” as a picker flourished, Darrell channeled his other creative energies into his own songwriting and recordings. By the time he had released his debut CD, Aloha from Nashville (1997), its follow-up Family Tree (1999), and Real Time (2000), a duo album with “newgrass” trailblazer Tim O’Brien, Darrell’s original songs were much in demand by singers looking for more than “big hat” bragging or slick country-pop. Suzy Bogguss was the first of many to record a Scott song, taking his “No Way Out” into the country singles charts in 1996. Darrell’s compositions became highlights of albums by Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Kathy Mattea, Maura O’Connell and even his mentor, Guy Clark. The Dixie Chicks’ recording of “Long Time Gone” from Real Time was not only a hit for the Chicks but garnered a 2003 Grammy nomination for “Best Country Song”; “The Second Mouse,” a Scott/O’Brien tune from Real Time, was a Grammy finalist as “Best Country Instrumental Performance” in 2001. That same year, Darrell was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, an honor repeated by ASCAP in 2002.
Darrell’s solo CDs, session work, touring gigs with Steve Earle’s Bluegrass Dukes (of which he remains a member), Guy Clark, and Newgrass Revival founder Sam Bush, and his own live shows have steadily drawn reviews even payola can’t buy. USA Today praised his “brilliantly clever songs”; Entertainment Tonight raved about his “powerful songwriting, passionate vocals and masterful picking”; Rolling Stone listed his 2003 CD, Theatre of the Unheard, in their list of Critics’ Top Albums and compared him to Clark and Springsteen “at their best.” Performing Songwriter went all the way, dubbing him “the best of the best.”
Somehow, Darrell has continually found the time and energy to expand his musical activities ever further. In 2003, he launched his own label, Full Light Records, and his first move as owner was to produce a traditional, mountain country album for his father, This Weary Way, that finally showcased Wayne’s original songs. For the past two years, Darrell has been the “artist in residence” with Orchestra Nashville (members appear on Modern Hymn’s “Joan of Arc”), creating what he calls “diverse musical happenings – the odder the better,” mixing the string section with such guests as Sam Bush, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and other musicians from many genres.
Darrell plays more than 50 shows a year, including prestigious US and UK festivals, and conducts songwriting workshops around the country. He recently had to turn down invitations to lead road bands for Joan Baez and for the current Alison Krauss/Robert Plant tour due to logistics. We should all have such problems; we should all have such skills. But Darrell does, and that’s what makes him such a distinctive and creative force in contemporary music.