I keep wondering what makes Dave Insleys Here With You Tonight so much fun to listen to, since it inhabits entirely familiar musical forms without significant innovation. It must be Insleys resonant and slightly quirky voice, his interesting lyrics, and the quick tempos and sharp backup musicians that spruce up standard chord progressions -- notably the steel guitar of Rick Shea, a talented veteran. In other words, its just plain well done.
At first, the lyrics sound like familiar on-the-road and I-love-Jesus country material. But, working with unusually lengthy lines, Insley gives fresh details, expanding and subverting old formulas. In "Borrowed Time," rather than the got-to-get-back-to-my-good-ol-mountain-home cliché, he sings,
Taking on Christianity in "God Loves the Working Man," he is bold and funny without risking a cross-burning. His casually detached singing leaves melodramatic self-indulgence out of the picture. For Insley, life is beautiful and rich more because of pain than despite its disappointments, which we acknowledge and transcend. Zen country music, anyone?
Produced by Insley himself and mixed by Insley and engineer Alex Otto, the album has clear sound that showcases Insleys strong-but-not-bombastic baritone singing and thereby clearly sets forth the fine lyrics. This makes sense, Insley having been named Arizonas Best Songwriter in 2005 by the states major newspaper. But you also hear Shea, the other good players, and guest vocalists Amanda Cunningham and Rosie Flores at just-right levels. A party atmosphere keeps the sophisticated lyrics from making the album a head-scratching affair.
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