Grant Dermody is one of the few blues cats who, beyond singing, plays harmonica and only harmonica. This concentration has allowed the cultivation of a rich palette of inflection, tone, and breadth. Because of that, he reaches beyond the narrower confines of the genre, landing more fully in Norton Buffalo territory cross-sliced with a very generous tang of John Mayall (and if you want a companion piece to John's celebrated Room to Move, bend an ear to Rain Crow Bill here). In fact, along with Buffalo, he's one of the very few players whose skill argues for the inclusion of the harp as an unusual orchestral instrument—were we only to have a Ferdi Grofe or William Russo type composer still around.
For back-up on this disc, Dermody recruited an armada of skilled players, some very well known: Del Rey, Louisiana Red, John Cephas, and others. The sound is mostly stripped down, nailing an open sky atmosphere, and his voice carries a bit of John Sebastian but tends to the monotonic. The entirety of the CD is acoustic and frequently dips into folk and gospelly airs, though the title cut is surprisingly patina'ed with folk-rock and light jazz. Much of the entire enterprise is an elegy to Dermody's late wife Eileen, who sings alto on the a capella Hard Times Come Again No More, and to his mother, who passed two months after Eileen, who was battling cancer.
The lama Kilung Jigme Rinpoche apears on the closing track, in a dreamy rendition of the trad Vajra Guru Mantra, standing as a reminder that the entire world has lament musics, not just American blues. Lay Down My Burden is an extremely well wrought tapestry of roots musics crafted in Dermody's mode of syncresis resulting in a CD that treads ground alongside those he admires—people who, in the words of liner writer Phil Wiggins, "keep moving forward". Thus, it closes the chapter on tragedy quite nicely while opening the door to new days and the future without diminishing either.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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