“More Behind the Picture Than the Wall” by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
More Behind the Picture Than the Wall
Rounder Records
4 stars (out of 5)

Few bandleaders in the history of bluegrass have matched the consistent excellence – on stage and on record – as Doyle Lawson has since forming Quicksilver in 1979. So it’s no surprise that More Behind the Picture Than the Wall is an excellent disc all the way through, from the playful opener “Sadie’s Got Her New Dress On” to the mournful “Can You Hear Me Now,” a Carter Family-style duet that comes in two versions: regular and “Retro 1938.”

Doyle is smooth and spry as ever, whether on lead vocals on the the title track and the Harley Allen-penned tearjerker “The Phone Call, ” or the bouncy mandolin piece “Tulsa Turn-A-Round.”

Newcomer Darren Beachley (upright and electric bass, tenor and lead vocals) ably hills the spot vacated by Barry Scott with a strong, clear tenor that’s equal parts Bobby Osborne and Southern Gospel.

And, of course, Terry Baucom (banjo) and Mike Hartgrove (fiddle) exceed their reputations as two of the most highly-regarded instrumentalists of their generation.

But the most notable fact about this DLQ CD is that it might be the last recorded before Jamie Dailey leaves the band. (He’s planning to start the Dailey Vincent Band with Darrin Vincent starting in 2008, details here).

Dailey’s gregarious stage presence and amazing vocals have made DLQ one of the very best live acts of the last few years. He’s written some great songs over the years too, including three co-writes with Lawson here: “When the Blues are Movin’ In,” a McCoury-esqe heartbreak in ¾ time; “Lovin’ You” a happy tune perfect for Beachley’s lead vocal; and “Mississippi River Let Your Water Flow,” which runs clear, hard and fast, both recalling and updating the vintage Quicksilver sound.

by Aaron Keith Harris

“The West Was Burning” by Martha Scanlan

Martha Scanlan
The West Was Burning
Sugar Hill Records

3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Martha Scanlan’s award-winning songwriting afforded the Reeltime Travelers a dimension few contemporary old-time stringbands have enjoyed. Unfortunately, the Travelers are history; however, Scanlan’s compelling compositions continue on her debut release, The West Was Burning.

No one can accuse Sugar Hill of short-changing Scanlan on her supporting cast. In addition to producer/musician extraordinaire Dirk Powell, big-time backers include banjoist Riley Baugus, the great Levon Helm, his daughter Amy, and her Ollabelle bandmate Glenn Patscha. Guy “Fooch” Fischetti (steel), Gina Forsyth (fiddle), Eric Frey (bass), and Michael Juan Nunez (Dobro) also contribute.

That crew more than capably covers a lot of musical territory – from gospel rockers (“Get Right Church”) to old-time fiddle tunes (“Call Me Shorty”) and jukebox country (“Walkin’”). Yet, it’s knee-buckling ballads (the title track, “Seeds of the Pine,” “Up on the Divide”) that separate Scanlan from the rest of the pack.

Occasionally, Scanlan loads extra vocal punch behind lyrics that already pack plenty of emotional wallop. The result is a seemingly forced vibrato that might wear on some. Now that she’s front and center full-time, Martha Scanlan still may be defining her musical path. With The West Was Burning, she certainly has a beautiful point of origination.

by Tim Walsh