News/Thoughts

Darrell Sings Hank

Darrell Scott is more than just a song writer. He is a master story teller. His studies of literature and poetry at Tuffs University as a college student served to solidify his career as a wordsmith of the highest order. He’s written songs for many other artists along the way including Faith Hill, Keb, Mo’, and Montgomery Gentry. One of my all time favorites is Travis Tritt’s rendition of, “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive.”

Of course, he’s been writing and recording his own music along the way as well, releasing 14 CD projects to date. In 2007, Darrell won Song of the Year award from the Americana Music Association for his song, “Hank William’s Ghost.” The track appears on the 2006 album, The Invisible Man. Several renditions of his song, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” were used multiple times in the TV drama, Justified. In 2011, his album, A Crooked Road, won the Annual Independent Music Awards in the Country Album category.

The Blues Of Hank
Darrell’s latest full length CD project is a tribute to Hank Williams, but one that is much different from the typical so-and-so sings Hank Williams. Darrell Scott Sings The Blues Of Hank Williams is much more than a typical tribute project. “I always felt that Hank, on another level, was a blues artist; maybe not in the traditional sense of blues, but there’s so many songs of his with blues in the title,” Darrell told me. “I grew up on Hank Willams’ music. My dad was a huge fan. Even as a young boy, I knew all of his songs and music.” “I bet I heard the entire catalog from my crib,” he wrote in the CDs liner notes.

Hank Williams had a troubled and storied life, and a life long battle with alcohol. As a youngster, he was painfully shy, but would overcome that through the encouragement of a black street musician named Rufus “teetot” Payne. Legend suggests that Rufus showed Hank how to improvise music chords. He blended that influence of blues and other African American musical traditions with hillbilly and folk into his own unique style. Though his career ended at the young age of just 29, Williams recorded 35 singles, and is said to have written over 160 songs in the country and western genre’. Many of those songs were sad in nature, lending themselves naturally to blues interpretations.

Simmering For Years
“I’ve had the idea for many, many years, since my early 20s, actually,” Darrell said. “One day I realized that I hadn’t been in the studio for years. I was surprised. So I just put a date on the calendar and went to a studio, just myself and an engineer, because I couldn’t stand that I hadn’t been in a studio for so long. I did some other things, but what really stood out from this experimental session was all these Hank tunes. Then I knew, ‘okay, let’s do it.” And that started the process,” he said.

Darrell created a list of 20 to 25 songs that, in his opinion, were songs strong enough to be able to stand up to a blues interpretation. “I wanted songs that were not so well traveled, songs that we hadn’t heard so much,” he said. “Then, I just went down the list and hand picked the eight or nine that were hands down, ones I wanted to work with. That’s where we started.”

“I’ve certainly known the Hank version of these songs, but I’ve always felt like there was a blues approach towards Hank’s music too. I wanted to connect those dots on this recording. Really, I could have easily created a second album as well. There are just so many of his songs that could handle a blues approach.”

The Right Sound
Musically, there was a specific approach Darrell had in mind. For all of the songs, Darrell brought his electric guitar, and invited one of his favorite B3 players in for many of the sessions, Reece Wynans. “He’s just one the greatest Hammond B3 players in my opinion,” Darrell said. Danny Thompson added the bass licks, Marco Giovino sat in on drums, and Shab Cobb on the fiddle, rounded out the musical team for the recordings.

“In terms of interpretation, I found chord substitutions and different arrangements that would make sense,” he said. “We kept the players consistent through-out the whole album. But some would come and go – like not every song has drums; not everything has bass. But pretty much everything does have the B3 in it though,” he added.

Darrell’s father, Wayne Scott actually got to make an appearance on the record too. According to the liner notes, Darrell said it was one of his proudest moments. His dad joined him for the song, “When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels.” “We had my dad sing on that song. We tracked in his kitchen in Scott Holler, Kentucky. Feeling the song was short, I asked him on the next take to speak, (in the spirit of Luke The Drifter, an alternative name under which Hank Williams used to record his gospel music under); to recite, right out loud, his memories of the day his mother passed away – what you hear on the track is what came out, on the spot.”

Other songs featured on the record include, “Lost Highway,” “Fool About You,” and the eloquently spoken word song, “Men With Broken Hearts.”

Darrell wrote, reflecting on the music of Hank Williams; “I recognized what he (dad) loved about Hank; poetic yet totally understandable – honest, heart broken, love sick and the possibility of forgiveness from a woman, or from one’s self, or from one’s creator. I strived to be true to the song’s spirit and to offer my version of blues to them.”

Working The Down Time
Since the CD was a summer release, Darrell hasn’t really had a chance to play these songs live for people yet, knowing that he, like so many others, have watched their performance opportunities be stifled by the shutdown. So he’s repurposed the time into other creative efforts. “One of the things I was able to do is begin a home studio build project at my house. That’s been really going great guns. I might have an actual working studio in the next couple of months. So that’s going to be a positive outcome of the pandemic,” he said. “It seemed like a great thing to do with my time at home.”

Darrell has also started a Patreon page which contains a bunch of content for subscribers. “I have one feature called Hogging The Covers, where I take a well known song and completely reinterpret it. I have another subject called, Production Talk, where I break down the recording process of a certain song, or how I went about doing a certain thing. There’s a bunch of content there that never really existed before, and would not have been possible if I hadn’t had the time to put it out there. We’ve done a few live streams as well,” he said.

Darrell Scott Sings The Blues Of Hank Williams is available now at all of your favorite listening spots. If you’d like to learn more about Darrell’s music you can visit www.DarrellScott.com.

Written By Greg Tutwiler

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