Steve Gulley’s calling card, his ace in the hole, his bread and butter is the slow song, the angst-ridden country weeper, the gentle love song. His past recordings and this one, as well, make that plain. That should not lead you to conclude that his non-slow material, past and present, doesn’t rate highly. It surely does. It would be hard to imagine a listener who wouldn’t get a boost from the up tempo drive of the title tune here, or who wouldn’t find enjoyment in the medium, bluesy grinders, such as “Short Life Full Of Trouble,” “Good Road,” and “Common Man’s Train Of Thought.”
In short, they’re all good to very good songs. The slow songs go them one better, and that’s the result of Gulley’s vocals. The man can really sell a slow song. While he can hit hard a soaring, emotional line on a fast song, as he does so well on “Good Road,” it’s when the tempo slows that the full range of his singing becomes apparent. Low notes. High notes. Big rounded tones. Words twisted and turned, all their intended meaning wrung out. Gulley gets it all in on the slow songs. And he knows it. That’s why there are four of them among the 12 tracks. There’s the modern-tinged emotion of “Not Now.” There’s the gospel “Closer To The Shore.” Most of all, there are the two absolute highlights, “A Man Of Your Word” sung with Gulley’s wife Debbie, and the 3/4-time “Living,” both of them in the classic country-style Gulley does to perfection. Songs and singing don’t come much better than either of those two.
Backing Gulley is the same group from New Pinnacle’s debut: bassist Bryan Turner, banjoist Matt Gruby, and mandolinist Gary Robinson. The continuity makes for some excellent support. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW