Relationship trouble, trouble, and more trouble. Such is the underlying thread as Steve Gulley debuts his group, New Pinnacle. Only an original instrumental, a declamatory “You Can’t Take Jesus Away,” and a medium-tempo grinding take on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” stand in opposition. The Louvins’ “Every Time You Leave,” performed as a dreamy duet with Amanda Smith, might fall either way, as whoever’s being left seems content to live with the coming and going. The eight others, however, leave no doubt.
“Leaving Crazy Town,” a torrid Gulley and Tim Stafford original, opens the CD with an explosive rush, Matt Cruby on banjo, Gary Robinson on mandolin, and Bryan Turner on bass making it clear they can cut it. The tune is propulsive, the rhythmic accents hit hard, and by the sound of it, the guy leaving has every justification to do so. “Hello Goodbye” is a medium bouncer in which “goodbye” is personified, bringing blues and tears when it visits. Then another Gulley original, “You’re Gone,” followed by the slow, country and classic twin-fiddled “It’s A Long, Long Way To The Top Of The World,” in which a man works to reach fortune and fame, but loses love doing so. Gulley is dead-on with his interpretation of this type tune and later gives an equally brilliant cover of Hank Cochran’s “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me.” Two more Gulley/Stafford originals about bad relationships, “She’s A Taker” and “That Ground’s Too Hard To Plow,” round out the album before it ends with a warning to “Take A Look” before you leap.
Gulley brings to this project his wonderful voice, at times so full of anguish and power and emotion, at others so weary and world beaten. In doing so he and New Pinnacle make these troubled songs downright entertaining. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BW