Artist: Darryl Purpose
Album: Still The Birds
Label: Blue Rock Artists
Release Date: 05/06/2016
When you get a sense of Darryl Purpose’s amazingly diverse life experiences, you can begin to understand why he is such a gifted songwriter. He has plenty of stories to draw from. He is member of the Blackjack Hall of fame, has been banned from casinos on six continents, done a short prison stint, walked across the country for peace, studied with global spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, and done admirable charity work. Here, he teams with his songwriting partner, Paul Zollo, to portray the Vietnam draft dodger who loses it in “Hours In A Day” to gangs of East L.A. in “Evergreen Avenue” to Edgar Allen Poe in “Baltimore” to Dylan Thomas in “Prince of the Apple” to the civil war in “Shiloh” and several places in between. Shifting between light and dark, hope and despair, tragedy and exultation, it’s all captured in these eleven songs sung by Purpose whose voice gets inevitably compared to James Taylor’s. It’s that good.
While Purpose considers the album as much Zollo’s as his, the commentary from Zollo on the songwriting process provides insight. “According to the pattern we set a few years back when writing our first ones, I would email him the lyric. And wait. And often within a day or two I would receive a phone recording. And there would be the song. Finished. With a melody both unexpected and perfect. And I would be overjoyed. What was a tangle of often conflicting considerations for months was now a perfect and complete song. Then, being craftsmen, we’d continue to work and polish them, adjusting each word if necessary.”
The liner notes provide the lyrics and notations on each of the songs which were recorded in pristine fashion at the Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley, TX. Throughout the guitar and production from Billy Crockett is outstanding. While every song is a keeper, the strongest sequence is the one from tracks 3-5. In “Hours In A Day” the writers manage to mention Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Nixon as they unfold the story. “The Nearness of You (Red Garland)” is a tribute to one of the greatest jazz pianists of the late fifties and sixties, punctuated by brilliant bass playing from Roscoe Beck and accordion from Joel Guzman. “The Meaning of My Love”, one that Purpose calls a reverse love song, features dual vocals from Eliza Gilkyson. A testament to how strong these writers are is “Baltimore” – rendering the death of Poe into a sing-along tune.
This album is a nice surprise as I was not familiar with his past albums. This is absolutely superb work from one of a kind. Do you know any other musicians who start their story this way? “I left home as a teenager and became a professional gambler.” Make no mistake; this is professional songwriting and singing too.
– Jim Hynes