Darrell Scott's new "Live in NC" recalls the record -buyer's rush I felt mail-ordering a couple of limited edition CDs some years ago from Richard Thompson's website. They captured the great singer/songwriter guitarist performing electrically and acoustically with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation). The discs did a fine job conveying how these two men command a stage like a couple of ancient English monarchs (wise and benevolent ones, of course) reincarnated as stringed instrument musicians.
Could the parallels be any clearer? "Live in NC" pairs Scott, a stateside wizard of guitar and song, with Danny's bass and the syncopated, deeply grooved timekeeping of drummer Kenny Malone. Like Richard Thompson, Scott writes beautifully, deeply informed by his native folk culture and musical druids. He's a powerhouse singer, and whether by himself or, as here, with gifted collaborators, he can take both acoustic and electric guitar to dazzling, unexpected heights of flat-out jamming.
Matching wits and intensity with Danny Thompson might intimidate some (this is a heavily credentialed veteran who practiced ten hours a day as a young comer), but Scott proves here what those who've followed his rise through Americana and country songwriting already know-that he toiled for years playing long hours in bars and on endless road swings, making the rent, finding himself, and honing the precision and passion you hear in his playing today.
Even a dedicated music freak could go a year without finding a show this good to see in person. Kenny Malone's vast experience in Nashville studios has ripened into subtlety, not showiness, on the skins. Danny's tone and articulation gives the thundering bass its own distinct voice in the mix-headliner status if you will. And Scott's extraordinary songs (plus a few tasty classics) unify and organize an intimate communion between performers and audience. "Live album" often implies a BIG performance in a BIG place, but those tend to vaguely disappoint. Here's more of an unpretentious, from-the-road snapshot of masters (if not monarchs) at work, with all the rush of that limited edition mail-order bootleg, without the hassle.
- Craig Havighurst, Nashville 2004