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Album Review

The cover of Troubled Times displays a pensive photo of David Davis standing in front of a dilapidated building in what could be any American town or city. As a son of Alabama, Davis, wearing a neatly pressed shirt, sporting a tie and cowboy hat, and carrying a mandolin, is certainly out of place. If one gathers from this info that Davis, the Warrior River Boys, and the music they make are out of step with modern times, he or she figures correctly. As if to underline this point, Davis and the band open with a recently written murder ballad in the tradition of "Tom Dooley" and "Knoxville Girl." While the narrative structure of "The Ballad of Sarah Malone" is much more complicated than these earlier songs (switching to first person halfway through the song), the basic story is as old-fashioned as they come: girl reveals that she is pregnant, boy stabs her with dagger. The interesting twist here is that Sarah Malone has woken up after 50 years to seek revenge, though why she's woken up now and how exactly she enacts her revenge is never spelled out. Davis and company rely on bluegrass arrangements — mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass — to deliver this song and its follow-up, a ballad about the death of Stonewall Jackson. While Troubled Times loosely adheres to traditional bluegrass, the music is never as blue and lonesome as Flatt & Scruggs or Jim & Jesse. The town or city where Davis was photographed, it seems, has left its residue. Troubled Times nonetheless retains a connection with its roots and should not be confused with the hybrid known as contemporary bluegrass. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Troubled Times, David Davis
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