Album Review – Melissa Carper’s “Daddy’s Country Gold”

Finding perfection in music is such a formidable task with the endless menu of options and choices songwriters, performers, musicians, and producers are asked to select from when trying to take a nascent idea for a musical expression, and present it to the public fully formed. You start with blank pages and clean slates, and then have to craft words, melody, and musical accompaniment to somehow do the inspiration, and the raw emotion or story behind a song idea justice. Often that effort fails, and even when you do end up with something favorable, it still falls short of the aspirational ideal.

But this new album, entitled Daddy’s Country Gold, is not just the blossoming of a songwriter, singer, and entertainer, it’s one of those few and fleeting moments where everything comes together to present music in its perfect, most ideal form. Unlike most all of the other music you interface with—and with only a few exceptions like maybe Zephaniah Ohora’s records—it all comes together and snaps in place smartly here. And even if perhaps the speed or flavor just isn’t your style, you can’t help but to slow clap at what has been accomplished.

Melissa Carper is not some Johnny-come-lately to the music scene. She’s a seasoned veteran of the upright bass that for herself and others, has been logging service time for the roots music cause admirably and successfully in the circles in which she runs, even if if those efforts have often slid scandalously under-the-radar. Though those who know how to listen intently and dig deep for the best in American music don’t need a lesson or run-down of Melissa Carper’s resume points to be sold, the ideal environment for presenting what makes her special to the world had yet to take full form around her various musical pursuits until now, despite their sizable and enjoyable results.

We always knew Melissa Carper was an old soul. But perhaps we were miscalculating on just how old that soul was. The 60’s and 70’s isn’t the right era to enrapture her songs and voice in, maybe not even the 50’s. Daddy’s Country Gold calls back to the very earliest times of country music, when jazz and ragtime were still very much primary influences in the genre, and there was a gilded finery brought to songs and performances, even if the expressions were still distinctly down home.

Producers Dennis Crouch of The Time Jumpers and Andrija Tokic—along with collaborators like pedal-less steel player Chris Scruggs and Billy Contreras on fiddle—set the ideal canvas for Melissa Carper, and then she steps right up to the mic, and not wanting to waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity some performers only ever dream of, channels the very essence of her expressive soul into these songs, leaving you shaken by the stark, interpretive magic they sow that is so distinctly not of this time or place. Daddy’s Country Gold is a welcomed and warm escape to a better era.

It’s the combination of Melissa’s folksy, colloquial expressions and perspective, along with a voice that fits so expertly into the production suite brought to this effort that results in the magic of Daddy’s Country Gold. The genius is starting everything off with the notion that Melissa Carper’s vocal capabilities have never been rightly complimented and realized on record, and then bringing to bear whatever necessary resources to make that full realization possible, whether that’s horns, chamber strings, or just traditional country instrumentation. Collaborators on this effort also include a who’s who of roots titans, including pedal steel legend Lloyd Green, and Brennen Leigh, Sierra Ferrell, and Rebecca Patek singing harmonies.

Some long-time Melissa Carper acolytes may be quick to point out that some of the songs of the new record aren’t entirely new. “Old-Fashioned Gal,” “Would You Like To Get Some Goats,” and “My Old Chevy Van” have been in the Carper repertoire for years, and been recorded before. But my goodness, when everything is set up so ideal, and you’re minting gold like Melissa and her cohorts were during these Daddy’s Country sessions, why not make sure to capture takes of some of your greatest compositions of all time as well?

It’s tough to not wax poetic or get hyperbolic when you come across an album that gets it so right like this one. But it’s also fair to point out that no, Daddy’s Country Gold doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. The magic of the record is its interpretive mastery as opposed to its striking originality, at least in sound. And it may be a sound that to some will come across as too archaic and fuddy-duddy to find favor with, at least beyond a novelty.

But make no mistake about it, Daddy’s Country Gold isn’t just an ambitious solo album. It’s a brilliant revelation of what some have known for years, and what many others are about to find out: Melissa Carper is one of the greatest classic golden era country singers and composers of this generation.

Two Guns Up (9/10)

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