In the title tune to his 2010 album A Crooked Road, Darrell Scott tells a deceptively simple story with almost child-like candor. In essence, he explains that it is not until one completes a journey along a difficult path that the true depth of discovery relating to those travels is revealed.
“I walk a crooked road to get to where I am going,” the London, Ky. native sings in the tune. “To get to where I am going, I must walk a crooked road. And only when I’m looking back, I see the straight and narrow. I see the straight and narrow when I walk a crooked road.”
It’s a masterful peace of storytelling and song structure, augmented by a melody as wide eyed and wanting as the narrative. Scott designed the song – and indeed much of the two-disc album that bears its name, a recording where the songsmith wrote every tune, played every instrument and produced every participle – as an ongoing saga of chasing romance.
“Basically, there is a theme on the album that reflects 30 years of chasing relationships, marriages, divorces and affairs – you know, love and all that kind of stuff,” said Scott, who will perform a solo concert on Saturday at the Grand Theater in Frankfort
But if you were to look at what Scott’s career has brought him over the past year – namely, a multi-instrumental role in Robert Plant’s celebrated Americana all-star troupe dubbed the Band of Joy – a more complete view of what has transpired down that crooked road comes into view.
“The year has been much like that song A Crooked Road,” he said. “It’s like, when I look back, I get a very different view from what I thought would have happened a year ago.
“A year ago, I thought I was only going to be with Robert for July. Then July turned into September. That went into October and November. And we’re still out here now (Scott spoke by phone following a soundcheck for a Portland, Ore. concert with Plant). I didn’t really have any information to project on what would be the busiest travel year of my life. But it has been a good year.”
How busy has it been? For that, let’s examine the two instances responsible for landing Scott back in his home state again. First, there was his late February guest spot at the Opera House for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. The program placed Scott in the company of the great Emmylou Harris and a host of other singers and poets speaking out against mountaintop coal removal.
Already on a break from a winter run with Plant and the Band of Joy, Scott interrupted a brief Florida vacation with his kids to make the gig. He only got to perform two songs, but they were beauts – You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive (a coal mining lament that became a career redefining hit for Eastern Kentucky-born country star Patty Loveless) and A Crooked Road, which won open and obvious approval from Harris.
“When I sat down after that song, Emmy and her band were so gracious,” Scott said. “That just felt great because she is one of my heroes.
“But I was just proud to be there. I wanted to be counted as a Kentucky voice that has written about my family and my rural roots in Eastern Kentucky. I wanted to be counted in with Emmy and all the people who think mountaintop removal is an atrocity. I wasn’t going to miss that.”
The other instance is this weekend’s Frankfort show, which was originally slated for last winter but was rescheduled in order to accommodate Plant’s rapidly mounting tour schedule.
Making it to Kentucky won’t be any easier this time, though. Scott is scheduled to play with Plant and the Band of Joy tonight for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and again Sunday with the group at Merlefest in North Carolina.
“When we found out this tour was going to last through April (it will resume for a final North American leg in June before finishing in Europe this fall), I knew it just wasn’t going to be right to move the Frankfort show a second time. So I insisted that I have to be in Frankfort this Saturday. And Robert’s folks very graciously moved things around to make that happen.”
“You know, an outsider looking in might say, ‘Well, what about your solo stuff?’ And at first, that was on my mind, too. For most of last year, I was like, ‘My solo stuff is who I am. Why would I give that up?’ I mean, I don’t play for anybody as a sideman.
“Then I just allowed myself to think, ‘Well what happens if my solo career isn’t the most important thing on planet earth for awhile?’ And as soon as I did that, a weight of the world fell off of me. I started enjoying the tour and working with Robert and the band and the very special gathering that it all is.”
Unlike Plant’s 2010 Band of Joy album and its long-running tour, where Scott is featured primarily as an instrumentalist playing guitar, mandolin, banjo, accordion and pedal steel and lap steel guitars, the Frankfort show will be a lesson in the simplicity fortified on A Crooked Road.
It will simply sport one singer, one guitar and a library of great songs.
“Being in the Band of Joy, I do stuff I would never do solo. I would never drag a pedal steel around the country doing my solo thing, although it might be a good idea if I did.
“That’s the fun and abandonment of playing in the Band of Joy. It’s a vacation from my usual solo stuff. The beauty, though, is that I’m finally allowing myself to enjoy that vacation.”
Darrell Scott performs at 7:30 p.m. April 30 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. $15, $25. (502) 352-7469.