Few song types have the impact of a finely-crafted, slow country weeper—all the better if it has a good message. Maybe it’s the cathartic quality or maybe you just think, “Well, at least my life’s not that bad.” They sure are effecting and affecting.
On this CD from Dave Leatherman, just such a weeper, “Chiseled In Stone,” comes in at track four, and it has it all. Good tune, good arrangement, good presentation, good story. In it, a husband and wife quarrel, and off he goes to the bar. He meets a man who scolds him to be more grateful for having someone at home at all, that you never know lonely until the death of a loved one is “Chiseled In Stone.” Vern Gosdin and Max D. Barnes wrote that one, and Leatherman gives it a respectful and thorough reading, nicely supported by reso-guitarist Ferrell Stowe.
That opens a string of four more topnotch songs. The first of them is “Drunken Driver,” a medium-paced grinder cast in the classic Stanley Brothers mold, warning against the perils of alcohol and automobiles. That’s followed by a spare cover of “Were You There,” followed by a fine cover of Ralph Stanley’s “Hemlocks And Primroses.” That Leatherman has a touch of Ralph’s delivery also helps the last song in the string, Ray Park’s jaunty “Montana Cowboy.” Elsewhere in the recording is Leatherman’s tale of what happened to landowners when the TVA came in. Agree or disagree with the policy, it’s hard not to feel for the landowners. Leatherman also includes “Saginaw, Michigan” and gives it a much more traditional treatment than the country original.
All those, indeed all the tunes, are delivered by Leatherman in a wizened, rough-hewn vocal approach that is quite compelling, particularly when the songs are of a story-style or are in need of world-weary presentation. Backing him effectively are, among others, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, Mike Bub and Ronnie McCoury. (Dave Leatherman, 1555 Far Oaks Rd., Woodleaf, NC 27054.) BW