Let me preface this by saying I have absolutely no authority on bluegrass; I can probably count the number of bluegrass albums I’ve ever even listened to on two hands, and that’s being generous. It’s something I want to rectify, but right now, I can’t tell you what makes good bluegrass music–so patience, bluegrass fans–but I know when I hear good music, and this album deserves my attention despite my ignorance. Besides, bluegrass doesn’t get talked about enough on these blogs, and that only furthers the ignorance of country listeners like myself. So with that in mind, I’d like to present my favorable, if somewhat clueless, thoughts on the new Dailey & Vincent record, Patriots and Poets.
As I probably say way too often, I place a great deal of importance on album openers. They can set the tone of the record and sometimes decide whether or not I’ll even listen. ‘this album opens with the energetic love song “Gimme All the Love You Got,” and it held my attention right away. That says even more considering my relationship with bluegrass. There are several other highlights on the front half of the record. “Baton Rouge” and “Until We’re Gone” seem to go together; the former is an upbeat track with some excellent fiddle where the narrator is driving from Baton Rouge to Birmingham to be with his lover. The latter, featuring Taranda Green, is about a couple who are still together after many years despite people telling them in the beginning that they were too young. The two songs are both standouts, but together, they tell an even better story. “Bill and Ole Elijah” is another great song, this one about two cell mates who become lifelong friends. Bill wants to escape, but Elijah convinces him it would be foolish. IN the end, Elijah escapes and leaves a note for Bill, telling him to run north because all the guards and dogs are headed south after Elijah. He says his life is through anyway, and he’d rather die this way than in the cell with Bill. It’s a really nice story with that great instrumentation only found in bluegrass. “Unsung Heros” is a nice ode to the people who don’t get recognized for their good deeds. It’s a little sappy, for lack of a better word, but it has a good message, and a lot of people will surely enjoy it. I mentioned instrumentation before, and I have to add that the album’s two instrumental tracks, “Spring Hill” and “255 North” are pretty great as well.
The back half of the record starts to drag on a little. This album is sixteen songs, and some of the back half could have been left off without effect. There’s nothing bad, but it’s not as memorable. One gigantic exception is “Here comes the Flood,” arguably the best song on the whole thing lyrically. It tells the story of a flood that wrecked a town and ruined a family farm; eventually, the narrator’s dad drinks himself to death. The lyrics combined with the vocal delivery make this one something you should absolutely hear. The other highlight of the back half is “That Feel Good Music,” a fiddle-driven track lamenting the disappearance of the music from the past. It follows “Here Comes the Flood” which really brightens up the album after the darkness of that track.
As I mentioned, the album tends to drag on some, especially in the back half. There are several religious songs which is by no means a bad thing, but with the exception of “Beautiful Scars” on the front half of the album, I didn’t find any of them especially memorable. “America, we Love You,” the last track with words, comes from an honest place, naming off different towns across the country and speaking of the group’s experiences, but it feels a little underdeveloped. It’s solid, as all these tracks are, but in an album of sixteen songs, it’s one that gets lost.
If it were up to me, I’d probably have cut this down to ten songs, and that would have made a killer album. As it is, it’s a sixteen-track album with many good songs and some filler. But the good is pretty great, and I definitely suggest checking this out. You won’t want for banjo and fiddle and lively, fun instrumentation. There is some really nice songwriting in places too, and the front half of the album is pretty great throughout. If you aren’t very familiar with bluegrass, this is a nice place to start. And if you’re a bluegrass fan, this is another good album for you to enjoy. It compelled me to do a bluegrass review, so that’s special in itself. Definitely give this a listen.