By Larry Stephens
Gulley continues a career of playing good bluegrass with “Aim High.” Bryan Turner drives the songs with his bass and the title song is a fast–paced bit of advice on how to live your life. Bluegrass dwells on the hardships of life as much as the good times and Gulley co–wrote “Short Life of Trouble” all about a man living life on the edge of trouble. Matthew Cruby’s crisp, percussive banjo sets the tone for this number, giving the song the hard edge it needs for its subject.
Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle” always touched a nerve in me and “Not Now” is in a similar vein: people needing a bit of love and attention and the people who should give it to them brushing them aside. Life is just too busy, too full of distractions and you have to be on guard that you’re not the one saying “not now” to someone who needs you. Gulley is an excellent singer and moves from traditional bluegrass to country-bluegrass or pure classic country easily. “Deceitful Kind,” kicked off by Gary Robinson’s mandolin, is a number that could have been in Dr. Ralph Stanley’s repertoire and is as bluegrass as a song can be and “Good Road” is another excellent bluegrass number. Gulley picked from a range of well know bluegrass composers (Jon Weisberger, Carl Jackson, Becky Buller, Jim Rushing, Tim Stafford, and more) and includes a good variety of songs. Tracks that don’t vary much from one to another raises the doze factor; you’re not going to doze with this CD in the player.
I always expect good singing and harmony and excellent musicianship when I hear Steve Gulley, in person or on CD. His band, along with guest Tim Crouch (fiddle, cello, and temolo guitar) and his wife, Deborah, singing on “A Man of Your Word,” provide all of this. This is another top mark in the history of Steve Gulley.