Album Review: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver - “Life Is A Story”

IBMA Hall of Fame member and his band return with a dozen ear-pleasing tracks.

In the Bluegrass world, Doyle Lawson is, quite simply, a legend. Now in his early 70s, Lawson has fronted his band Quicksilver for 36 years and like all great Bluegrass bands, there’s been a rotating group of talented members in the band. This version of Quicksilver may be one of the best ever with members including Josh Swift on Dobro, Joe Dean on banjo, Dustin Pyrtle on guitar, Eli Johnston on bass and Stephen Burwell on fiddle. Of course, Doyle plays mandolin and is joined by Swift, Myrtle and Johnston as the vocal quartet of the band (with Myrtle and Johnston serving as lead vocalists).

On Life Is A Story, the story song takes precedent over the course of these dozen tracks. “Life of a Hard Workin’ Man” feels like a long lost George Jones song and it’s one of the band’s originals (written by Pyrtle, Dean and Johnston) while The Guitar Case, one of the latest gems from award-winning songwriter Donna Ulisse (now a Mountain Home Recording Company artist like DLQ), tells a story of a man looking for a purpose in his life while “Love Lives Again” is an old George Jones classic and here the band brings all the melancholy the lyric offers.

Mainstream fans of country music from the turn of the century will definitely remember “Little Girl,” a #1 hit from John Michael Montgomery and written by late songwriting legend Harley Allen, and realize that a great song is great no matter the arrangement, even if the story is completely fictional. It’s still heartfelt as is “Kids These Days,” a song which serves as the epitome of the story aspect, this one which shares discussions of the differences between an adult’s childhood and that of kids these days. It wouldn’t be a bluegrass album without a song which uses a train or train metaphor in a song and that (very good) song here is “Derailed” a song about a relationship that has, well, derailed (ended).

While technically a bluegrass album, Life Is A Story feels as much like a classic country album as it does anything inspired by Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs and in decades gone by, it probably would’ve scored a hit or two on the radio, now, it’s just a fantastic piece of music with storytelling that makes it worthy of revisiting again and again.