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Review: Under the radar, Darrell Scott defies category

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Darrell Scott, "Couchville Sessions" (Full Light Records)

Darrell Scott is one of those Nashville-based singer-songwriters who out-of-towners hear in some of the city's smaller venues and wonder: "Why isn't he more famous?"

He answers emphatically on the stellar "Couchville Sessions," a new release of material recorded 15 years ago in his living room in rural Tennessee. In a spirited indictment of the music industry's over-reliance on labels called "Down to the River," Scott spells it out in the chorus: "Let's all go down to the river at midnight, we'll swim muddy waters and pick us a tune, and we won't give a damn if it's rock, folk, country or blues."

Later in the song, imagining his arrest for not doing what's expected, Scott recounts being told, "You shall be released when we know what you are."

The point isn't hidden, but the album makes its case mainly through the music. The larger takeaway — that there are plenty of world-class musicians floating around who don't fit neatly into boxes — comes across vividly in both covers and originals, with frequent nods to such label-defying legends as Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

And then there's the somber recasting of Hank Williams' classic "Ramblin' Man," a slow-me-down revelation with a stair-step bass line that's evocative of New York club jazz as much as anything coming out of Nashville. It's a more subtle hint that the usual rules for sorting music don't apply here.

And what do you have instead? Just great musicians playing great songs, beyond category.

 

 
 

 

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