Family Tree is a grab bag of an album. Filled with scraps and pieces, it contains a few treasures but the majority of songs might have been better off staying in the desk drawer with the lint. Darrell Scott seems to be working too hard in this album, doggedly trying to reveal private truths and weave touching tales. Strained and gravelly vocal styles may work for Bruce Springsteen or Joe Cocker, but in Scott, this quality seems to emphasize the effort he is pouring into the album rather than allowing the music to take its own direction.
At times he succeeds in drawing me into his songs, such as in I Never Had a Sister, whose guitar, banjo, and vocals support a story of getting married too young and learning about love. However, these moments are not enough to counterbalance Scott’s choice to include his own version of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, a beaten horse best left to Sunday schools. When Scott heads in the direction of country and rockabilly, like the hearty and uptempo Family Tree, he leaves me wishing for the easy style of the tender She Sews the World with Love. Scott’s music makes me want to like it, but mostly the album is a near miss.