By WANDA FRIES
One of the clichés about modern life is that we all go around in our own little technological bubbles and that the music of the living room and the back porch is as much an anachronism as party-line telephones.
In Kentucky and the southern mountain region, thankfully, this conventional wisdom continues to be proven wrong. One of region’s newest bands, Faubush Hill, has released a CD of original songs that rival some of the best songs of such luminaries as Emmy Lou Harris, Darrell Scott, Johnny Cash and Lyle Lovett.
Recorded primarily by husband and wife duo Kevin and Robin Dalton, Beneath a Jealous Moon features songs influenced by every genre from kick-up-your-heels Texas swing in “Fiddle in the Middle” to the Beatles-era ballad “Funny Shoes” to the kind of ironic songs about love, devotion and the inevitable losses that make up the best country and Americana music—the kind that Lyle Lovett might sing with his large band or on the road with John Hiatt.
The band that produced this gem of a CD, however, is not large. Thanks to what Kevin Dalton calls “Les Paul and the invention of multi-track recorders,” on many of the tracks, Kevin and Robin are the sole performers, with Robin’s sultry, soulful contralto voice leading most of the songs and providing harmony for Kevin’s clear tenor on the rest. A multi-instrumentalist with an impressive range of skills, Kevin shows his chops on guitar, playing both lead and rhythm, and also drums, keyboard, mandolin and bass. The only two exceptions are “Fiddle in the Middle,” with Kevin’s phenomenally talented Uncle Tom Minton providing the fiddle, and “Church on Sunday,” featuring Kevin and Robin’s son T.J. Smith on lead guitar, Kris Kirkpatrick on drums and Mark Sloan on harmony vocals.
As Beneath a Jealous Moon became more of a reality, Kevin realized that live performances of the CD’s music meant that the band had to grow. He added Joe Dobbs on bass and Kris Kirkpatrick on drums, both gifted musicians who add depth and texture to what the duet is able to accomplish musically on their own. The live band, playing as it does to late-night audiences at such venues as the End Zone in southern Kentucky and the Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, often focuses on the work of other musicians and songwriters.
The CD, however, is Kevin Dalton’s baby, made up of 14 lovely tracks that are beautiful not only because of the musical range and richness, but also because Kevin exhibits the writing ability of a mature poet who has been able to take his life experiences (and those of Robin, his wife) to fuel songs that are both universal in appeal and at the same time intensely personal. “Pretty Bird,” for example, tells the story of a woman who goes in search of her father, a man she never knew. Mixed with the feelings of loss and the hope of reconciliation is resignation: “You don’t have to take me in/I’m not no little kid/And you don’t have to love me/Just tell me why you never did.”
“Red Mandolin,” one of the most whimsical tracks on the CD, is a gypsy romance. Yet even while it has its fun telling the story of a woman Picasso painted in greens, who sings and plays her red mandolin “beneath a jealous moon,” it understands the depth of a love whose tears “fill up the wishing well” and is intense and lasting: “I would lay/I would lay/I would lay my life down for you, dear/shelter all your innocence/Swallow all your tears.” There is not a false note here or a bad song.
Information about the band, song lyrics, scheduled appearances and ordering information for the new release are available at www.faubushhill.com.