For those who remain unaware of Darrell Scott, "The Couchville Sessions" is an ideal starting place. Long one of "rock, folk, country (and) blues" (to misquote the lead track, "Down to the River") most esteemed sidemen (Robert Plant's Band of Joy, Guy Clark, Steve Earle), collaborators (Tim O'Brien) and songwriters ("Long Time Gone," "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," "It's A Great Day to Be Alive," "Hank Williams' Ghost"), Scott has been making outstanding Americana albums for two decades.
With consistency his strong suit, and similar in most ways to his breakthrough album "Family Tree," "The Couchville Sessions" is a welcoming listening experience highlighted by Scott's warmly distinctive voice and diverse presentation choices. Recorded around the same time Scott was starting to 'break' 15 years ago - working with Tim O'Brien and Guy Clark around then - this is a set of well-aged performances captured in Scott's living room, the gestation of which are disguised within the sultry "Come Into This Room."
Embracing the practiced spontaneity of live recording, Scott records this time out with familiar compatriots including Danny Thompson (bass), Dan Dugmore (steel), Bill Payne (keys) and Kenny Malone (percussion.)
With sharp lyrical turns, Scott reflects on the power of relationships in "Love is the Reason," and chronicles their dissolution elsewhere ("Waiting for the Clothes to Get Clean" and "It's Time to Go Away.") "Another Day to Live and Die" is an old friend as co-writer O'Brien recorded it on "Traveller.
A favored Scott target, the music industry, is skewed in a pair of songs. "Down to the River" challenges the business's rampant inauthenticity, while "Morning Man" eviscerates those who wield inordinate influence over airwaves.
Bridging his creativity and his influences, Scott is unafraid to reinterpret the familiar. "Ramblin' Man" is given a jazz-blues shuffle tempo symbolic of its attraction to the illicit. Townes Van Zandt's "Loretta," a compelling song revealing more about the troubadour than its namesake, is richly embroidered by Dugmore's rich steel; in Scott's hands, the song's purported lightness is shaded by weary inevitability. "Big River" provides classic country energy, while "Moonlight Midnight" has a memorable vocal groove (and extended mid-song, instrumental jam) befitting the appearance of songwriter Peter Rowan and John Cowan.
"The Couchville Sessions" provides continuing evidence that Scott is one of Americana's most vibrant visionaries.