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A Crooked Line

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Album Review

With A Crooked Line, Darryl Purpose leaves the impression of a maturing songwriter with a growing sense of voice. He has begun to settle more assuredly into a style that seems significantly influenced by other storytelling folkies like his friend Ellis Paul, who sings backup on this album and co-wrote two of its tracks ("Bryant Street" and "I Lost a Day to the Rain"). More than any of Purpose's previous albums, Crooked Line feels like a collection of short stories. Purpose and his three songwriting partners, Paul, Robert Morgan Fisher and Paul Zollo, move from one vividly sketched character to another, carefully scripting desires, aspirations, and heartbreaks with minimal descriptions that frequently surprise in the final lines. The stories are unified by their individual contributions to the theme of the "crooked" path to healing and understanding. In the album's courageously quirky (and surprisingly pretty) opening track, "California (Rutherford Hayes in the Morning"), the healing comes through a 19th century presidential visit to San Francisco. In "Bryant Street" it comes in a grave side visit to a lost sister. Throughout, Evan Brubaker sets the tone perfectly with rootsy country-inflected folk arrangements that provide a strong showcase for Purpose's nimble fret work. Purpose remains marvelously versatile as a vocalist; smooth as silk on quiet tunes like "California" and dynamically ragged on rough-and-tumble numbers like the title track. And though his raspy tone is sometimes over- and misused (as on the string quartet ballad "I Can Get There From Here"), the singer's vocal control continues to grow along with his songwriting.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Darryl Purpose was a late arrival to the folk explosion of the 1990s. By the time he became a full-time folk singer in 1996, the competition among acoustic troubadours scrambling to find a place in the wake left by monster success stories like Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and the Indigo Girls was intense and daunting. But folk music is, after all, a storytelling genre. And when Purpose did finally hit the folk scene, he came with an unusually eclectic resume that provided him with a wealth of compelling...
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A Crooked Line, Darryl Purpose
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