Traveling Through

Dick Curless

Rounder CD 3137

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Matt Nozzolio


Before there was boot scootin' and tush pushin', there was real country music -- the kind made by people like the late Dick Curless. When listening to this album it's easy to imagine yourself being in a Legion hall or a roadhouse listening to a topflight country band on a Saturday night in 1964.

Traveling Through was recorded only six months before his death in May 1995 at the age of 63. Dick, from Maine, scored a national hit (No. 5) in 1965 with "Tombstone Every Mile" and is surrounded here by musicians whose taste and feel for the material are well-matched: Duke Levin on guitar and mandolin; Denny Breau on acoustic guitar; Michael "Mudcat" Ward on string bass and Billy Conway on drums. They do an excellent job of enhancing and matching Dick's emotion without getting in the way.

Sad ballads, like "Crazy Heart" and "I Never Go Around Mirrors" are prevalent. Tim Bowles' pedal steel accents and fills show impeccable taste and feel. He is a major contributor to the album's classic country sound. His break on "Since I Met You Jesus" is crisp and sparkling. Bowles also delivers a mournful Dobro on "When God Comes to Gather His Jewels."

Dick was blessed with a warm, rich voice (think of Ray Price with a lot more soul) that is as adept on blues numbers ("King of the Blues," "Freight Train Blues" and "I Get the Blues When it Rains.") as on the rockabilly honky-tonk tunes, such as "Rattlesnakin' Daddy."

One of the more powerful songs, "I Don't Have a Memory Without Her," is the tale of a son fondly recalling his mother, whose "prayers and her Bible still reach me today." The song, done partly in recitation, is naturally sentimental without becoming maudlin or campy.

Dick Curless was a throwback far removed from today's commercial country music scene, which seems to be dominated by the hat act of the week. He poured his heart and soul into every song. This album will serve as a lasting tribute to Dick and to real country music. It's a testament to the honesty and sincerity that Dick projects.

This review is copyrighted by Three Rivers Folklife Society, 1995.
It may be reproduced with prior permission and attribution.

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