Save a pair of duo albums with Tim O’Brien Couchville Sessions is Darrell Scott’s first album in four years. Most peculiar is that is not exactly entirely new as the songs here were first tracked in 2001 and 2002 in Darrell’s living room with bassman Danny Thompson (Pentangle and so much more), percussionist Kenny Malone and guitarist/pedal steel man Dan Dugmore. Flash forward to 2015 when Darrell contacted Little Feat’s Bill Payne to add keyboards. Also adding to the tracks are guitarist Richard Bennett, fiddler Shad Cobb, Mike McGoldrick on uillean pipes and whistles and Dirk Powell on accordion, banjo and fiddle. It all works seamlessly. No surprise with players of this caliber.
The set includes nine Scott originals, one a co-write with Tim O’Brien. Five covers flesh out the set.
Darrell Scott songs never shy away from human drama, those here no exception. “Down to the River” is a rousing opener in which Darrell reminisces about a night when a bunch of kids went to the riverside for some late night swimming, music making, assorted forms of intoxication and fun in general. It was rousted when the cops came and ran everyone in. “Morning Man” is a bittersweet portrait of a morning drive DJ. In “Waiting for the Clothes to Get Clean” one senses the marriage of the woman doing the clothes in the Laundromat and the man who hangs in the car with a beer and a smoke is a cold one. While he waits inside the Laundromat his wife reads movie mags and another man there fantasizes about her. On the silent way home the husband asks her “What took you so damned long?” In “It’s Time to Go Away” the end is upon the couple. Scott’s writing is always sharp lyrically and memorable melodically.
The covers include Johnny Cash’s “Big River” more electrified than usual. Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight” is slowed down way more than I’ve heard the song, and its bluegrass feel is swapped for a slower tempo which plods a bit. Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man” is even slower, but this one works really well as a grinding blues. Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” is a sweet take that invokes Townes’ lilt, and James Taylor’s “Another Grey Morning” is mysterious and moody, a lovely take.
Given that there haven’t been any new Darrell Scott songs for four years outside his collaborations with Tim O’Brien it is possible Darrell has been wrestling with writer’s block. That said his returning to these long set aside sessions is most welcome. They feel as compelling as anything he has done. Couchville Sessions is a very fine addition to Darrell Scott’s discography.
— Michael Tearson