Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford have been writing songs together for years. In 2008, their “Through The Window of A Train” was named song of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Both have made their marks separately as singers and musicians.
Gulley, a member of Grasstowne, honed his skills with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and Mountain Heart.
Stafford, a member of Blue Highway, worked in Dusty Miller and Alison Krauss & Union Station before helping launch Blue Highway in 1994.
But after years of writing together for other people, the two decided to record an album of 14 of their favorite songs.
It’s not strictly a bluegrass album — there’s a piano on “Nebraska Sky” and percussion on both “Nebraska Sky” and “Torches.”
So call it “countrygrass” — a description that fits a lot of bluegrass albums these days.
It’s definitely a singer-songwriter album with lots of well-crafted lyrics.
The title cut is about pioneers who find hard times and death “in the land of milk and honey where the dogwood blossoms bloom.”
“Nebraska Sky” is a letter to a mother from her soldier son, which promises “someday soon, I’ll be coming home to stay.”
“Just Another Setting Sun” is about the death of gunfighter/gambler John Henry “Doc” Holliday as told by his common-law wife “Big Nose Kate” Elder.
“Sixteen Cents” tells the story of a dead hobo who has only 16 cents in his pockets.
“Angel On Its Way” offers the philosophy that when you help someone, “you never know when you might help an angel on its way.”
“Torches” says “When I carry torches, I always get burned.”
The first single from the album is the blazing “Just Along For The Ride,” about making changes and being glad you did it your way.
The album also features the musicianship of Adam Steffey, Ron Stewart, Justin Moses, Dale Ann Bradley, Michael Alvey and Mark Laws.
It’s a good showcase for two of bluegrass best songwriters.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.RuralRhythm.com.