Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grant Dermody "Lay Down My Burden"

Grant Dermody plays harmonica and sings. On "Lay Down My Burden," his third solo recording, he brings together a wonderful set of acoustic country blues songs and a great group of players. The mood is gentle, but the playing is top-notch on every song. It's a Sunday afternoon kind of set, and it is Sunday afternoon as I write this review. The talent of the guests here is mind-blowing, and includes John Cephas (his last song is a great cover of Skip James' "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues") Eric Bibb, Darick Campbell, Rich Del Grosso, Rich Hill, John Dee Holeman, Orville Johnson, Louisiana Red, Del Rey, and a host of others. The songs range widely as well, from Rev Gary Davis' "I'll Be Alright" to Steven Gomes & Ronnie Earl's "It's My Soul" to a very nice cover of "Amazing Grace" to Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" (done a cappella in 4 part harmony) to Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go" and a Tibetan prayer "Vajra Guru Mantra" with a few traditional songs and three Grant Dermody originals. Louisiana Red sings and plays guitar on his original "Where Is My Friends?" There are a grand total of two songs here which feature drums--played quite well by Dale Fanning. Instead of the drums most of the time there are a few instruments, a few voices, and these great songs come to life. I think the best things here are a great spin on Dick Powell's "Waterbound" with Richie Stearns on banjo and Grant's harp and voice, and the traditional instrumental "David's Cow," with very fine violin by Scott Meyer, guitar by Forrest Gibson and Grant on harp. Both of those songs are as good as anything done by anybody I have heard this year. The cd is engineered by Garey Shelton and produced by Orville Johnson, who also plays dobro on "Amazing Grace" and "Vajra Guru Mantra" and mandolin on "Evening Train" and "First Light." Liner notes are by Phil Wiggins.

This is a terrific cd, full of humanity and dignity and art. Every time I play it I am reminded of the beauty of music played well.

You can buy it at

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