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Doyle Lawson, Digging Deep


Doyle Lawson grew up admiring bluegrass legends; now he's become one. His band Quicksilver started out in 1979, and its mix of bluegrass and gospel has earned the group numerous awards. Their latest release is titled "You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper." Meredith Ochs has this review.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. DOYLE LAWSON: (Singing) Well, I thought I had a love forever, that she was the one for me.

MEREDITH OCHS reporting:

To the uninitiated, bluegrass can be an alienating soundscape with its soaring high-tenor vocals and ferocious instrumental virtuosity. The more expertly it's played, as it is on this new Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver disc, the more I wonder how any group of human beings can achieve that sort of musical precision. But Lawson and his band aren't just a bunch of rapid-fire pickers who can place note after flawless note exactly where they want them to go. The music they make has an underlying warmth that comes from the origins of bluegrass, country, blues and African-American gospel.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. LAWSON: (Singing) Now I've lived and learned, and let me say, take it from me because I've been there, that true love it don't come easy, and sometimes it just ain't fair. So before you give your heart away and you lay it on the line, make sure you got a one-way ticket on old Heartbreak Number Nine.

OCHS: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have released more spiritual albums than secular ones. This disc falls into the latter category, but Lawson expresses his spirituality here via old-fashioned love songs, not honky-tonk love songs, mind you, which usually involve drinking and cheating and possibly firearms. Lawson's world is populated by small-town folk with big hearts, men who fall for the girl next door and never forget her. This song, the title track, makes reference to wives who get dinner on the table and husbands who should be more grateful to them. Whether or not you feel a connection with their values, you'll be captivated by the hook in the chorus and the equally simple idea that the world would be a better place if we all appreciated each other just a little more.

(Soundbite of "You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper")

Mr. LAWSON: (Singing) You spend your life a-running around out there on the road, leaving your woman a-sitting at home to shoulder all of the load. You gotta dig a little deeper if that girl's a keeper or lose a little bit of your pride. You gotta dig a little deeper if you want to keep her, keep her satisfied.

OCHS: Early in his career Doyle Lawson played with the late Jimmy Martin, who was well known for being a brutally tough boss when it came to managing his musicians. Four decades later Lawson still strives for perfection in his music, particularly in the vocal arrangements. On this song, a remake of Jim Reeves' 1957 hit "Four Walls," Lawson and Quicksilver members Jamie Dailey and Barry Scott pull off an impressive inverted harmony; that's where the harmonies go beneath the lead vocal. Their voices blend and bend together like an elastic band.

(Soundbite of "Four Walls")

Mr. LAWSON & QUICKSILVER: (Singing) I'm made for love, not for hating. So here's where you left me. I'll stay. One night with you is like heaven, and so while I'm walking the floor...

OCHS: Lawson and his band apply the demanding art of gospel singing to these secular songs, and that's likely to appeal not only to hard-core bluegrass fans, but also to folks who are just passing by.

(Soundbite of "Four Walls")

Mr. LAWSON & QUICKSILVER: (Singing) Four walls to hear me. Four walls to see. Four walls so near me, closing in on me.

SIEGEL: The CD by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is "You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper." Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Meredith Ochs