Despite the fact he’s still a few years away from turning the big 3-0, Caleb Daugherty comes across with a genuinely knowing perspective. That’s evident enough with his new album, the ominously titled Burnt The Sawmill Down, and though it’s a collection of covers (song credits include Johnny Rodriguez, Lefty Frizzell, Waylon Jennings and his acknowledged hero, Keith Whitley), Daugherty brands each track with his own tangled tapestries.
It comes as no surprise really. Daugherty picked up his first guitar at the tender age of seven, and soon after he went out on his own, he was recruited by Rhonda Vincent to join her band on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. More recently, he was chosen to take part in a salute to the aforementioned Mr. Whitley, offering tribute alongside Lorrie Morgan, Darryl Worley, and various other artists who revered Whitley’s work.
Not surprisingly then, Burnt The Sawmill Down reflects Daugherty’s devotion to vintage Americana conceits. Each song is a heartfelt statement, flush with sincere sentiment. That’s true whether it’s the wayfaring wanderlust found in such songs as Big Wheels Rollin’, She’s the Ramblin’ Kind, and Riding My Thumb to Mexico, the tender optimism of the traditional Gospel standard, Long, Long Journey, the sympathetic tones of Going Through the Motions (featuring Vincent on the shared vocals), or the resolute affirmation of Waylon’s truly tenacious, This Time. Each offering leaves a durable impression which resonates well after the final notes fade away.
Taking full advantage of an instrumental ensemble that makes good use of banjos, mandolins and fiddles, Daugherty tows the divide between classic country and vintage bluegrass. The uptempo tunes are flush with rambling and rejoicing, so sunny they emit a luster and sheen. They sound both stoic and celebratory, all at the same time.
In an era where posturing and pretence is all too prevalent, Caleb Daugherty represents the real deal, an artist whose efforts exude a confidence and clarity that extend well beyond his tender years. Don’t be surprised if he’s tapped for emerging artist of the year. After all, Burnt The Sawmill Down is the hottest thing to come down the pike in quite some time.