From: Bluegrass Unlimited January 1999
Daniel Gore
Ways That Are Dark
Elephant Rock, (888) 685-9665
by: Murphy Henry

  First, the cast of players: Peter Rowan, Tim O'Brien, Scott Huffman, Craig Smith, Rickie Simpkins, Jack Lawrence, and Tony Williamson. These guys are the heart of this CD. But Daniel Gore, who composed all but two of the songs, is the soul of this most unusual recording even though he plays mandolin on just three numbers. "Ways That Are Dark" is described as a "musical companion to Horace Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders, a book first published in 1913. Kephart wrote stories about the mountain folk who lived in the North Carolina highlands, using the words and expressions of the people themselves. When Daniel Gore read the book, "every story sounded like a song." So, he set out composing words and music to some of the stories. Like Kephart, Gore speckles his songs with unusual mountain words and phrases, for which he thoughtfully provides definitions. The surprise is that Gore was able to transform these songs into a successful bluegrass CD. There are two reasons for this: the songs are extremely well-crafted, and Gore chose some of the best team players in the business to bring these songs to life.

  Compacting a story into a song is not an easy task. Making the song fit the bluegrass style is even harder. Daniel Gore is a master at both. As a songwriter, his use of a chorus is brilliant (and bluegrassy). While the verses provide often complicated details of the story, the chorus gives you the story's essence and a musical resting place. However, if the musicians had been less talented, these songs could have withered on the vine. Craig Smith provides a tasteful tour de force in how to play the melody of a song Scruggs style. Peter Rowan is in his element singing "Ways That Are Dark" and the "Killing of Hol Rose," which echo some of his own fine story songs. Jim Watson and Scott Huffman, with their down-home accents, are completely at ease with the North Carolina dialect and never make old-time mountain words such as "cheer" ("chair"), "hyar" ("here") and "spile" ("spoil") sound forced or disrespectful.

  This unique CD is for you folks who appreciate the art of storytelling in song and for all who like well-played bluegrass music. I, for one, can't wait to read the book. (Elephant Rock Records, P.O. Box 20041, Spokane, Wa. 99204) MH