Lay Down My Burden - Grant Dermody
Written by Simon Field Lay Down My Burden - Grant Dermody
Cards on the table. This is only the second harmonica album I have ever bought. That said, calling it a Harmonica album doesn't do it justice or properly describe it. This is a country blues album, with a huge cast of fantastic musicians, in which the focal point happens to be a fine harp player and singer. There's barely a shuffle in sight, and you certainly won't find any 72 bar harp solos.
Crucially (and perhaps unusually) Grant Dermody's harp never dominates the songs here; it serves them tastefully. Perfectly even. Its all about the songs.
Back to the huge cast- the CD kicks off with Eric Bibb on guitar, delivering a subtle finger picked rendition of Gary Davis' I'll Be Alright to accompany Grant's gentle vocal and laid back harp.
Amazing Grace is a standard (and perhaps a cliché) but hits the right spot. Full of atmosphere but somehow unsentimental, the track features Orville Johnson's unique dobro sound, partnered with lap steel and held together by John Miller's acoustic guitar. The smooth beginnings grow into an unexpected crescendo and a good deal of life is breathed into what is a very familiar old hymn.
John Cephas' last recording, a rendition of Hard Time Killing Floor, sees Grant take a back seat to Cephas' vocals and guitar, but as ever the harp is perfectly measured and exactly compliments the song.
Waterbound deserves a special mention. Sparse banjo and a beautiful haunting melody, delivered by Grant with passion and intensity. I'm not familiar with the song, but its one of those tunes that sounds like I've probably known it forever, without happening to realise it.
What I quickly realised on listening to this music, is just how much I enjoy Grant's vocals. He readily switches from soft to booming, but the latter is never ill judged or overdone. The tone is pure and absolutely natural. There are no affectations here, no attempts to try to sound like an old black bluesman. Just Grant Dermody singing loud and clear, from somewhere deep down in the gut.
First Light is another early favourite for me. A Dermody original with an agreeable thumping groove (driven by acoustic bass) and infectious rhythmic mandolin from Orville Johnson.
Notable further contributors to the generous 16 tracks include Frank Fotusky, Louisiana Red, Rich Del Grosso and Del Rey, among many others.
I can do no better in summing up the essence of this CD, than to borrow Grant's quote from the sleeve:
“Eileen said to me once that our life is a poem and a prayer and a love song. Not too surprisingly, so is this recording.”
Hugely enjoyable and highly recommended.http://www.grantdermody.com/index.html
1. I'll Be Alright
2. It's My Soul
3. Amazing Grace
4. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
5. Rain Crow Bill
6. So Sweet
7. Lay Down My Burden
9. Twelve Gates To The City
10. Evening Train
11. You Don't Have To Go
12. First Light
13. David's Cow
14. Where Is My Friends
15. Hard Times Come Again No More
16. Vajra Guru Mantra