Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chris Darby -- Instructional Songs For Quality Living

Writing about country music as I do, when I saw the title for Chris Darby's new album, I assumed (and hoped) that the title would be ironic. What's a more apt title for an album of yet more songs about bad breakups, bad booze, and bad feelings? As it turns out, Instructional Songs for Quality Living is as earnest as they come. Country always seems to live at extremes: painfully raw and earnest, or sly irony as an attempt to (unsuccessfully) mask the true emotions. Darby is direct, but his music is gently insistent rather than a torrent of gut-spilling.

Darby's advice is pretty much the same as what every therapist, Buddhist, or self-help book would tell you: live in the moment and love yourself. Of course, if it was that easy we'd all do it. As a good little believer in differentiated instruction, perhaps music will be what unlocks the secret for you. It could also be Darby's common-sense approach to music and lyrics, or maybe his warm, fatherly voice will lead you to Enlightenment.

At the risk of offending, Mr. Darby, I think this collection of songs might actually work better on shuffle with the rest of your music. I'm a big believer in albums and I'm not sold on the idea of being able to buy a song from here or there like a buffet. That being said, listening to all 11 songs in a row is a bit of an intense experience. Since all of the songs are written as advice to the listener, the combined effect is somewhat didactic. Instead, I think the music would have Darby's intended effect interspersed with your sad-sack music about bad breakups, bad booze, and bad feelings. What better reminder is there that things aren't so bad, after all?

Chris Darby -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

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