Artist: Dave Insley
Album: Just the Way That I Am
Label: DIR Records
Release Date: 04/29/2016
After what seems like an interminable hiatus, Dave Insley thankfully returns with his first album since 2008, and it’s already receiving plenty of airplay. Insley has a distinctive, barroom baritone perfectly suited for authentic country tunes, similar to one of his guests on this recording, fellow Austin resident Dale Watson. Despite the gap between albums, this one seems casual enough, reflective of the relaxed twangy accompaniment that allows his strong vocals and word craft to shine through. While Watson may be one reference point, artists like I See Hawks in LA, Rick Shea and Mike Stinson also come to mind. Insley self-produced and either wrote or co-wrote the dozen tunes. Besides Watson, Insley recruited several high profile musicians including guitarists Rick Shea and Redd Volkaert as well as vocalists Kelly Willis and Elizabeth McQueen.
The honky tonk opener “Drinkin Wine and Staring at the Phone” is colored by Matt Hubbard’s trombone. Shea’s guitar and harmonies from Willis and McQueen highlight “I Don’t Know How This Story Ends.” Volkaert steps forward in “Call Me If You Ever Change Your Mind.” The centerpiece track is “Win-Win Situation for Losers” co-written with Shea and Paul Lacques (I See Hawks in LA) and rendered as a duet with Kelly Willis. Insley re-tells a Marty Robbins classic using similar instrumentation in “Arizona Territory 1904” and uses horns for embellishment here and on other tracks. Thematically, solid, country sentiments prevail in most of the other tunes, the best of which is for his wife and family, “We’re All Here Together Because Of You.” Lest we overlook the humor in “Dead and Gone” begun with these lines, “My wife and my girlfriend met at my funeral/Well I guess they got along just famously….”
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but smile at the honest simplicity that’s a hallmark for traditional country music only to have my cell phone buzz to alert me that my favorite country artist Merle Haggard passed away today on his 79th birthday. Though Insley (as good as this album is) has an impossible amount of ground to cover to achieve legendary status, it will take artists like him and many more to fill Merle’s very large shoes.