What reminded me of these blissful gatherings is the new CD by David Gans and Eric Rawlins, Home By Morning. This is not a CD that feels like it is trying to get somebody "to the next level" in their "career", or one where compromises in the control room were accepted "because otherwise radio might not play" some song or another. This CD sounds and feels like music for music's sake. And that's all right with me.
Gans and Rawlins have created tunes that I can only think of as "honest." Essentially this is American folk music. The voices don't reach for your crotch, they reach for your heart. The singers deliver words, not sounds. "This is music guys in their 40s and 50s make, not guys in their 20s," Rawlins quips. "It's not full of angst, it's full of questions."
It's also filled with hopes, memories, longing, flowing water, highways, touches of regret, love, liminality, and experience in the journey. Gans and Rawlins are both good song-writers and good players. Their voices will grow on you quickly, most especially because of what they say with them. The kindness you feel when you hear these voices will grow deeper and more meaningful with each successive listen.
And man oh man oh friend of mine, do they have some friends to stop over on their porch and join in! Since each song is meant to be just that, a song, there is no singular band or unit on these tracks. The personel shifts depending on the needs of each composition. A capella masters Mary Schmary add a touch of sweetener over here, David Grisman drops a fat mandolin line or two over there, Lance Dickerson knows what drums are supposed to add and does it with a feeling, Sally van Meter plays dobro like she invented the dang thang, Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie each play fiddle so very well, Bobby Black puts the slides to the pedal steel just right, Danny Carnahan & Robin Petrie are excellent singers. And I'd almost be remiss not to single her out: Jennifer Jolly's piano and organ playing is very, very good.
Gans and Rawlins cover a lot ground stylistically. There's an Irish sounding number, a cajun ditty, a couple of rockers, and, of course, some Western Swing. "I've been waiting to do this for 25 years," Gans said, "but I think I wasn't ready to do it until now."
If the album has a theme, Eric Rawlins points out, it's about "leaving home and going out and encountering the world and coming back again." While some songs are a glimpse of "people you've left behind," others "are actually about coming home."
That's only partly true, I think. These songs are less about coming back home than they are about building a home of your own long after you've left your original nest. These songs are what it might feel like some moody fall day when the leaves are changing in the Catskill or the Appalachian mountains, if your talented friends stopped by to sing sweet songs that soothe your soul right there on your front porch. And like I said, that's all right with me.