Jerry Salley is a powerful songwriter and performer. On Bridges and Backroads, he gives us twelve of his songs, all penned with a variety of co-writers. He also manages to assemble an impressive band, including everyone’s favorite bassist, Mike Bub. The background vocalists are an all-star cast: Carl Jackson, Val Storey, Larry Cordle, Rhonda Vincent, and others.
Jerry is at the top of Nashville’s songwriting royalty, and he gives us quite a treat on this CD. The song list is:
I listened to this several times (no kidding!), with the CD starting out big and getting bigger with each listen, until I now find myself humming the tunes and bursting out loud in a chorus or two of my favorites. This does not happen to me much, anymore; I am thankful this CD brought it out of me.
Of course, the uptempo Miss My Miss in Mississippi, the first song, was destined to be one of my faves. How could I not like it? Every landmark mentioned, every road, every thought of getting home to my own Mississippi Miss might as well have come from my own life. I enjoyed the Osborne Brothers-esque vocal flourish at the end.
I Take The Backroads also tapped into my psyche. Backroads give every bit as much in views and memories as what they cost in travel time. I particularly enjoyed the banjo work of Greg “Papaw” Davis. Davis’ banjo had just what I like in syncopated notes and fat tone.
Waltz Through The Ages, a beautiful duet with Rhonda Vincent, will bring a joyful tear to a glass eye.
You Can’t Hear A Heartbreak would be a good selection for a single release. It is a medium tempo Bluegrass ballad that should smoothly transition to other genres. Once again, “Papaw” Davis’ banjo got my attention, along with some beautiful fiddle work from Jason Roller.
A Memory Like Mine, co-written with my friend Jim McBride, is a dark ballad of pain and hurt. Some memories are painful, but inescapable. The background vocals are beautifully haunting. “The truth never changes and the past never dies, when you’ve got a memory lie mine.” I know a good line when I hear one.
Be Better To Your Neighbor is a straight ahead bluegrass tune, and calls to mind the Louvin’s If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor Then You Don’t Love God; that is a good thing. You want better neighbors? Be a better neighbor. The banjo playing of Aaron McDaris got my attention this time; his tone and touch had me thinking Sonny Osborne, which should make any banjo player smile a big smile.
Hillbilly Lilly, had to grow on me, but it grew and grew until I think now it might just be my overall favorite song on the CD. At first, I found it downright disturbing. I don’t know what changed other than I acquired a taste for its musical complexity. Hillbilly Lilly the person is as complex as the arrangement. There are great instrumental segues on this song. I find myself “Hey”, “Ho”, and “Yeahing” as I walk up the path from my studio to the house, as I bush-hog through overgrown pastures on hot August days, even as I write this. It is a powerful song. If it seems too in-your-face at first listen, give it another. I did. It won me over.
I first heard Without Forgiveness when my niece’s husband, Jason Davidson, recorded it for his own remarkable Gospel/Contemporary Christian CD, He Came Searching For Me, in 2017. I liked it then, I still like it now. This is a powerful song. When Jason played the song for me prior to the CD release, I asked him who wrote it. When he told me, I said, “That’s some powerful songwriting talent.” That was not an overstatement.
Life To My Days is the song I most find myself singing, for a variety of reasons. Jerry Salley may have saved the best for last.
Hmmm. That’s nine favorites out of twelve songs. I like the other three, too. I reckon the thing to say is that this is a fine piece of work, including the engineering, recording, mixing, and mastering. As is my habit, I put it on to play loud through my studio monitors just to see if I could find audio anomaly I could complain about. There were no complaints from me; none. My wife has her own stained glass studio in the same building as me, separated by a dog run bay in between us. My Mississippi Miss complained that I had the music way too loud.