Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver: Lonely Street

Doyle Lawson is no spring chicken, but he delivers traditional bluegrass music with the energy of a man half his age.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Lonely Street

Label: Rounder
US Release Date: 2009-05-05
UK Release Date: 2009-06-22
Artist Web site

The year 2009 has been a pretty good one for bluegrass music's elder statesmen. Bobby Osborne came out with solid album Bluegrass & Beyond, Del McCoury recently released a box set commemorating his 50th anniversary in bluegrass and now Doyle Lawson is back with Lonely Street. Granted, when you've released approximately 40 albums since 1977, you're not exactly "coming back" to the industry; however, for some time, Lawson has been alternating gospel and secular albums, releasing one every year or so. Lonely Street sees him back on the secular side; more important, it's damn good bluegrass for sinners and saints alike.

"Monroe's Mandolin", the album's opening track, is also its strongest. A tribute to Lawson's chief musical influence, the song begins with chirping birds and haunting mandolin harmonics before transforming into a sprightly fiddle tune that could have been played by Monroe's beloved Uncle Pen. The rest of Lonely Street follows in the footsteps of its opener: solid picking, sweet harmonies and catchy hooks -- for the most part anyway.

One of the album's few weak spots is "The Human Race", an antimodern lament. These types of songs have been popular in bluegrass music since its inception, but its often presented far more skillfully than it is here. Lawson and Quicksilver do their best, but lyrics such as "We've flown to the moon / But have we missed the boat along the way" are far too heavy handed, provoking eye-rolling instead of eye-opening. The slick dobro work of Josh Swift and the band's harmonies make the song listenable, but after a few repeats even this loses its charm.

Lawson's backing band, Quicksilver, lives up to its name; constant personnel changes have made its lineup somewhat mercurial in the past, but listening to Lonely Street the group sounds as though its been playing together since infancy. The crisp sound of Lawson's mandolin with Joey Cox's driving banjo is sure to make a bluegrass fan's heart skip a beat. But don't worry; the steady rhythms of Carl White on bass will get that ticker right back on track. Guitarist Darren Beachley alternates leading vocals with Lawson throughout Lonely Street; his take on the Marty Robbins 1950s classic "Call Me Up and I'll Come Callin' on You" is one of the album's best moments.

A spirited instrumental ("Down Around Bear Cove") and gospel tune ("When the Last of Our Days Shall Come") round out Lonely Street, but the real shining star of the second half of the album is "My Real World of Make Believe." It's a beautiful story of tender, everlasting love -- until the end of the song, when it's revealed to be an elaborate fantasy. Ouch. The song's final couplet, "We'll always be together inside the spell I weave / In my real world of make believe" is both creepy and incredibly sad and combined with Lawson's mournful vocals, it's hard to think of a better ballad to hit bluegrass music this year.

Though his current band is relatively young, Doyle Lawson is no spring chicken. However, it's hard to think of a young artist who could deliver this material with the same spirit, drive and skill that Lawson does. For that reason alone, Lonely Street should be a must-listen for fans of traditional bluegrass.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.