In the summer of 1975, Wayne Scott rented a cabin in California and took his 16-year-old son Darrell out there to write some songs. Darrell had already been playing music for about a decade and was showing promise as a songwriter. In the years which followed, the younger Scott would eventually move to Nashville and write hits for mainstream country stars like the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill. He’d record a bevy of his own albums, win awards from the recording academy and the Americana Music Association, and lend his dexterous multi-instrumentalist skills to artists as variant as Robert Plant and Joan Baez.
Like all musicians, no doubt, Darrell would learn music is often redemptive, occasionally prophetic, and frequently falls somewhere between the two. Writing a song can be a healing process for a long-broken heart; it can be a mysterious encounter with a kind of heartbreak you’ve yet to discover. Months – sometimes even years – later, the songwriter might find himself in a situation which was clearly prophesized by that long-ago song. So it is that Darrell Scott releases The Long Ride Home on January 31 – an album full of songs from his formative years (including two from that trip to California), and a thank-you note of sorts to his late parents Evelyn and Wayne Scott, both musicians in their own right.
On November 18, 2011, Wayne Scott ran a red light in Kentucky and rammed into a Wendy’s fast food joint after being pushed that way by a semi. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he died four hours later. It had only been a matter of months since father had helped son put finishing touches on The Long Ride Home. Considering the gravity of that event, it would be impossible – and darn near remiss – to not consider the album through the lens of such a loss.
After all, here are songs like “No Use Living for Today” and the heartstring-tugging “Someday” (where Darrell sings: “I am a feeling man who cannot shed a tear / but I will cry someday”). These are songs which remain true to the basic tenet of both country and folk songwriting: three chords and the truth. Of course, given Scott’s remarkable artistry on a number of different instruments (and that of his friends who appear with him on the disc – Guy Clark, Tim O’Brien, Patty Griffin, and Rodney Crowell, to name a few), “three chords” seems to oversimplify things a bit.
Indeed, as is typical of a Darrell Scott album, The Long Ride Home includes plenty of meandering, creative solos on instruments as varied as Hargus “Pig” Robbins’ popping piano and Scott’s own languid pedal steel. But, these songs are stories above all else, written in a much different time and place. Returning to them now, from this point of his journey, Scott somehow manages to deliver them with a sincerity and poise which defies nostalgia or any other element of backward-glancing. This just goes to show a great song – like its writer – grows better over time, rather than growing old.
Indeed, the 16-year-old who wrote “The Country Boy” with his father in a California cabin certainly didn’t know the tune would find a new life 40 years later, when lyrics like these would come to mean so many different things:
From the rocking of his cradle
To the covering of his grave
You’ll never know the loneliness and sorrow he goes through
The country boy has been there, that’s what makes him sing the blues