Given what Phil Leadbetter has been through the last few years, the temptation is to look for symbols or meanings hidden in his song selection for his new CD. Does this song symbolize this? Or does that one mean that? Some titles certainly seem so. The resonator guitar summit with Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes on the instrumental “Joshin’ Around” might be read that way. The three gospel tunes, including Leadbetter’s beautiful solo rendition of “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” and the slow moving “Baptism” featuring lead vocals from Marty Raybon and Joe Diffie, might as well.
Leadbetter gives no such hints in his liner notes. As close as he comes is when he mentions that this is an album and group of musical friends (thirty in all) he’d been wanting to record with all through his treatments. The mix of 12 songs he selected is quite varied. Instrumentals don’t play as prominent a role as you might guess. There are only four—the two mentioned above, an original called “Leadbelly,” and the old jazz standard, always a favorite, “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Among the vocals are a couple of rambling, traveling songs, a Steve Wariner coal mining song (“Hole In The Earth), another jazz standard (“Georgia On My Mind”), and a Steve Gulley/Tim Stafford composition, “I’ve Never Seen A Love That Wasn’t Blind.” The latter, gentle and wistful, comes off very well. The singing of Gulley and Dale Ann Bradley make it one of the standout tracks, along with “Baptism,” “Just Joshin’,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and Shawn Camp’s “Jesus, My Old Dog And Me.”
Through it all, Leadbetter sounds as if he never took time away from his guitar. That’s a testament to his resilience and perseverance and is perhaps the symbol that can be found in this recording. (Pinecastle Records, 5000 Old Buncombe Rd., Ste. 27-242, Greenville SC 29617, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW