Don Hall paid dearly in order to be able to make this album, a compendium of reflections on a life that veered wildly off the path, took a while to find its way back, and ended in a redemption that was neither easy nor facile, decorated with loss and regret. Perhaps that's why there's oft a sorrowful integrity to his work. Once a darling of the Nashville music elite, he dashed all that on the rocks, only now, many years later, regaining his artistic feet in an eponymous chronicle of days misspent, chances passed by, and wreckage exhumed. Halls' thematics revolve around, as he himself puts it, "the bad man, the holy man, and me".
Don Hall is a country disc but one often inflected by roots, rock, and folk. In fact, the lead cut, Down the Road, is unexpectedly Bruce Cockburn-ish, as is Linger Not, complete with beautiful musical accompaniment, as Hall certainly knew how to pick his crew in each and every cut, having assembled three separate bands with bleed-over members. Road is an atypical cut but a primary candidate for non-genre charts, just as several tracks here are similarly ready to climb the country lists, Faith being one of them. And, yes, it's a Jesus song, but I love a good Jesus tune despite my personal atheism. Hall includes quite a few Christian references but does so with philosophical aplomb, not the mindless surrender that seems much too prevalent in the modern version of the faith, as some of my reviews have indicated in these pages (and earned the censorship and enmity of some very good labels).
Faith, too, is another of the more hybridized tracks, returning to Cockburn by way of Skip Ewing and others. Interestingly, Steve Stills' old obscure Manassas band is one of Hall's favorites, though he reflects none of it…while picking up the legendary Al Perkins, whose pedal steel was one of that elder ensemble's high points. An affinity for old school ways is what prompts Hall's deftness in crossing borders, and Look at Me travels beyond Stills to become reminiscent of old Elton John / Bernie Taupin material. And if you glanced at the song roster below and noticed Send Me an Angel, it's not Real Life's killer track but Hall's own, and a damn good one too.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles