Unsung Hero: The songs of Ron Davies
The Songwriter’s Songwriter finally gets his moment in the sun
I know it’s lazy of me; but when I buy albums I hardly ever check out the writing credits if the song isn’t by the singer or band concerned. This has led to some surprises over the years when someone has introduced a massive hit song as “one of my earlier tracks!”
So; when I opened the envelope containing this album I was underwhelmed by the prospect of yet another ‘tribute’ album to a singer-songwriter; then I got a look at the list of people who had gone into the studio to record his songs for this particular. Not only did I already own music from every single artist involved; but when actual Country Music Royalty like Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, BR549, John Prine, Rodney Crowell and Alison Krauss take part, I knew that I had to take it a lot more seriously than I’d first expected.
It’s said that Ron Davies wrote over 600 songs and if the 22 featured here are anything to go by his songs all come with a ‘Quality Assurance’ tag attached.
UNSUNG HERO has been lovingly put together by Ron’s younger sister and Country Star Gail Davies, who opens the proceedings with the moving One More Night With You which is straight out of the Classic Country songbook and under normal circumstances would be a highlight; but when Dolly Parton follows soon afterwards with one of her best songs in years; It’s Too Late, you know the bar has been set at Olympian level.
Everyone is going to have their own personal favourites, but for me Jeff Hanna (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) with his wife Matraca Berg on Harmonies singing Dark Eyed Gal had my jaw hanging wide open every time I heard it and don’t get me started on the dust that must have got in my eye when I first heard Kevin Welch singing Innocent Eyes; or at least I think it was dust.
Baring in mind all of the songs come from the same writer every one sounds different; which speaks volumes for Ron Davies’ imagination and ability to describe events and thoughts in a song.
Just about anything that Alison Krauss delivers is going to be worth listening too; but like Dolly Parton earlier; Good Love, After Bad is pretty much as good a song as she’s ever recorded and it features some pretty neat guitar from Ron Davies nephew and Alt-Country genius; Chris Scruggs, too.
There are also a couple of very pleasant surprises dotted around too with Delbert McLinton nearly stealing the show with a great song that swings like Bourbon Street on a Saturday night called Say It With Money; and one of my personal favourite singer-songwriters; the criminally under-rated Robbie Fulks manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with his better known contempories and flies the flag for the Alt-Country underdogs on Just The Way It Goes.
Normally I’m no lover of this type of ‘concept’ album; but UNSUNG HERO is so good it could have been a compilation that I’d created myself – all killer and NO filler.
Plus; all proceeds go to the WO Smith Music School in Nashville; which provides musical instruments and tuition for underprivileged kids.