If you’re a little-village type with a case of the big-city blues, bluegrass veteran Daryl Mosley (The Farm Hands, New Tradition, Osborne Brothers) provides the antidote with the stunning Small Town Dreamer. On his second solo outing, Waverly, Tenn., native Mosley offers up 12 original tunes that are concise short stories in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver. On each track Mosley paints a picture of the characters and traditions of rural America in precise, often heartbreaking detail.
On the nostalgic “Transistor Radio,” Mosley chronicles the people and places that spawned his lifelong love of music. “I sang along with Elvis and played with Bill Monroe / On the stage in my bedroom and my transistor radio.” “Hillbilly Dust” provides a admiring portrait of a local farmer who finds fulfillment in hard work and faith: “Me and God are partners in this ground /He made me an offer too good to turn Him down.” Likewise, the lilting waltz “You Are the Reason” expresses his love for that one special woman who makes that simple life so rewarding. In the same vein, the driving “Bringing Simple Back” make a vow to reject city life, declaring “I’m gonna get off the going-too-fast lane and find me a place to park.”
Like the best Southern writers, though, Mosley also acknowledges the darkness. “The Waverly Train Disaster” recounts the real-life events of a lethal explosion that devastated Mosley’s hometown. And “I Can’t Go Home Anymore” is a sad reflection on a long-gone place and time as he laments “Daddy’s gone and Mama too, it’s lived in by somebody new / Strangers locked behind our old screen door.”
Finally, the intimate “Mama’s Bible” is the album’s emotional peak, where Mosley muses on the collection of family treasures his mother had placed between its pages. Starting with “a faded rose, one she saved from her bridal flowers, I suppose,” Mosley pulls on your heartstrings until you feel they could snap. If you have a beating heart, call your cardiologist.
In short, Small Town Dreamer is a master class in economical storytelling, as warm and comfortable as the best home-cooked dinner you ever had.
Written by Robert J. Cannon