In addition to providing material for country stars including Faith Hill and The Dixie Chicks, Darrell Scott has been an in-demand session musician and producer since the mid 1990s, as well as showcasing his own repertoire on occasional solo releases – where the great and the good are often to be found repaying favours by lending their talents. He was born today in 1959.
Singer/songwriter James Darrell Scott was born in London, Kentucky, USA and raised in East Gary, Indiana – where his father Wayne (also a songwriter) worked in the steel industry before relocating his family to Southern California in the early 1970s.
Finding regular work as a fence erector, Scott senior also fronted a family band that included Darrell, who by the age of 14 had “learned to play lead guitar and pedal steel by playing with him 5 sets a night.”
While Wayne Scott and Harlan County tried to keep bar room audiences drinking and dancing rather than fighting with sets of covers, Darrell began to pen his own songs – but at that time purely for his own amusement.
By age 16 Darrell had moved on from Harlan County to gigging locally with other country cover acts and then as a member of the house band at the Brandin’ Iron club in San Bernardino.
Meeting a girl from Alabama, they were soon married and ended up living in Canada – where Scott played and sang in bars as a solo performer and found his way into a long-established Ontario-based country band, the Mercey Brothers.
While the band were only slightly more credible than the outfits Darrell had played with previously, their decision to record two of his compositions on one of their albums brought Scott some minor publicity and his first publishing deal. Dissatisfied with his output though – and with an unsettled domestic life – he recrossed the border alone and ended up studying English Literature at a college near Boston.
Moving on to the nearby Tufts University, Darrell encountered poet Philip Levine (Tufts artist-in-residence) and credits him with providing the inspiration to refocus his own writing to the personal experiences of his family history and his own upbringing – rather than what he later called “Las Vegas Country”.
The first result was “Uncle Lloyd” and a series of other self-penned songs ultimately formed a demo tape that landed Darrell a recording deal with EMI subsidiary SBK Records and studio time in Memphis to record those songs for release. However, the finished album was rejected by the record company as lacking the necessary hits to succeed – leaving Darrell marooned, without any income and contractually prohibited from exploiting his own material.
Packing his bags again, Darrell headed to Nashville in early 1992 – by now married again and with a daughter – and eked out a living with session work before hooking up to record with Guy Clark. That proved to be something of a door opener, with further studio engagements and a new publishing deal providing some much-needed steady income.
As part of the publishing process, Scott recorded demos of his own material and eventually they formed his 1996 solo debut, “Aloha From Nashville.” Initially passing them on by hand, the involvement of Sugar Hill Records saw Darrell gain some all-important distribution and begin to make his mark in Music City.
Picking up regular session work and seeing his material recorded, Darrell released “Family Tree” in 1999 and then a home-recorded album of duets with Tim O’Brien the following year that resulted in a Grammy nomination for the bluegrass instrumental workout, “The Second Mouse”. Another track, “Long Time Gone” meanwhile would subsequently enter the repertoire of the Dixy Chicks and earn a second Grammy nomination.
Voted Songwriter of the Year for 2001 by the Nashville Songwriters Association and landing the ASCAP plaudits the following year, 2003 saw Scott belatedly address the thorny subject of his abortive major label debut, the contents of which were now free of any restriction.
Founding his own label Full Light Records, “Theatre of the Unheard” became Darrell’s third solo release and contained songs originally recorded between 1986 and 1990 – including “Uncle Lloyd” – recorded simply “….with my musician friends, in my house.”
2005 brought the release of a concert recording “Live in NC” and then the Wayne Scott album “This Weary Way” – the latter fulfilling a long-held ambition to see his father record and release his own songs – also co-writing two new compositions with him.
2006′s “The Invisible Man” and 2008′s “Modern Hymns” kept up the momentum - with the latter seeing Darrell follow the example of Willie Nelson and offer up a worthy of Paul Simon’s “American Tune”.
Invited to join Robert Plant’s Band of Joy for their 2010 album and subsequent live shows, the homespun philosophy of “Theatre of the Unheard” then served him again for Darrell’s nakedly autobiographical release “A Crooked Road” that same year.
Musing on the death of father, the ending of his latest marriage and turning 50 across the 20 tracks; “A Crooked Road” was recorded at home and entirely performed by Darrell on a variety of instruments, with regular recording engineer Stephanie Hudacek the only other person involved.
Bringing the story up to date, 2012′s “Long Ride Home” then saw Darrell joined by friends and associates including Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell on a less complex, more country-styled offering than his 2010 opus.
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And here’s some footage of Darrell in action: