By: Dennis Cook
Modern Hymns (Appleseed Records) is five or six cuts above most cover tune sets, and in no small way lives up to the heavenly bent of its title, though in down to earth, fundamental ways that actually help the daily grind of living on the ground. Darrell Scott, a longtime session ace in Nashville and hit songwriter for likes of Travis Tritt, Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill, inhabits a superbly chosen collection of songwriter's songwriter fare, beginning with a tough but tender stroll through Gordon Lightfoot's "All The Lovely Ladies" (given blue moon shine by moaning fiddle and Scott's wonderfully cracked delivery) and concluding with Guy Clark's "That Old Time Feeling." In between he has his way with Joni Mitchell ("Urge For Going" that recalls Drew Emmitt's terrific manhandling of Dylan), Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays ("James," the sole instrumental but they make it count), Kris Kristofferson (the eerily timely "Jesus Was A Capricorn" given just the right amount of sarcastic bile), Paul Simon (very sincere read of "American Tune") and John Hartford ("Nobody Eats at Linbaugh's Anymore").
What really rocks you back are the hidden gems Scott revives here, namely the gospel touched, oh-so-moving "Out Among The Stars" by Adam Mitchell and Hoyt Axton's tremendous stomper "The Devil." Every choice, from the arrangements to the personnel to the production, fits the tunes like a glove and the players and singers involved (including Danny Thompson, Stuart Duncan, Tim O'Brien, Sam Bush and John Cowan) are never less than stellar, fitting for a picker with the pedigree of Scott. One might quibble with the choice of "Joan of Arc" from Leonard Cohen's songbook (it is interminable no matter who does it but points to Scott and duet partner Mary Gauthier for trying!) or Dylan's "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)," a tough one for anyone but Zimmy to pull off well, but one never doubts how closely held these cuts are to Scott, and his enthusiasm infuses the entire project, creating a great album from the patchwork pieces of his fellow travelers on the song highway.
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