Apr/May 2000 Music Review

One Endless Night

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Copyright 2000
Windcharger Music, Rounder Records

reviewed by Tom Dooley

There are some recordings that exude class, from the packaging to the song selections to the choice of guest musicians. Jimmie Dale Gilmore and his co-producer Buddy Miller made a lot of classy decisions in crafting One Endless Night, which comes remarkably close to being a perfect "album," as opposed to what I think lesser musicians and producers tend to create: a cd with a dozen or so songs on it. What makes this feat even more remarkable in this case is that most of the songs on this album are covers, with only two plus a bonus track written by Gilmore himself.

In spite of the varied sources, and in spite of Gilmore's decidedly unassuming vocal style, every song belongs, in a sense that's hard not to understate. To indulge in metaphor, you're driving down the same middle-western two-lane highway for about an hour. You're rolling along in an old Ford truck, pre-seventies model, windows rolled down in the late afternoon, and this album is the soundtrack playing in your mind. Just as the scenery constantly changes, but at the same time flows seamlessly from dusty small towns to dusty fields to the occasional cluster of trees around a farmhouse and a weatherbeaten barn husking in the sunset, so do these songs capture some particular singularity of intent.

But again, I remind you, these are mostly covers. At first I couldn't figure out why a guy like Gilmore would want to record a bunch of other artists' songs. I thought it would be the equivalent of Kris Kristofferson doing the same thing. Like Kris, Gilmore has a distinctive, certainly interesting voice, but also like Kris, I figured him for more of the songwriter than a singer, or an interpreter. But that was before I listened to One Endless Night a few dozen times in a row and realized just what a subtle vocal genius Jimmie Dale Gilmore really is.

But I was talking about classy decisions. First, I have to applaud the choice of songs and songwriters. There's my favorite Grateful Dead tune, "Ripple," in no way an insult to the original. There are slightly more obscure selections from Townes Van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey, and John Hiatt. And inexplicably, a version of "Mack the Knife" that is really, really good. If I didn't know better, I'd think that instead of being a jazz standard it came straight from Gilmore's trembling lips.

Gilmore teamed up with the underappreciated Hal Ketchum to write "Blue Shadows," and with David Hammond for "One Endless Night." The latter, of course, lends its name to the whole collection, and Emmylou Harris's uncredited backing vocals lend even more class to the proceedings.

Which brings me to the supporting cast. In addition to Emmylou and the Calloway Sisters, you can pick out the voices of Victoria Williams, Jim Lauderdale, producer Miller's wife Julie, and the group Cry, Cry, Cry. In every case, the vocals are subtle (a word that keeps coming to mind) and effective, like everything else about this album.

By the way, from the cover photos, Jimmie looks like he's put on more miles than Willie Nelson, with whom he's often (I think) unjustly compared. Not to say anything bad about Willie, but Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with this album, has impressed me with a particular artistic sensibility and sensitivity that seems wholly his own.

I do have one small criticism, however. I just don't care too much for the song "Darcy Farrow," which appears on track eleven. It does manage to fit with the album's continuity, but it reminds me of some of Kristofferson's more esoteric works, like come to think of it, that song about Darcy's Castle or something. I don't know, I just don't like the name Darcy I guess. But while this one song prevents me from awarding the highest possible "groovy" rating to One Endless Night, it won't stop me from listening to it again and again and again.

If you could split a groove in half, this album would rate four and a half of them. A groovy factor of four, then.

Ah what the hell. Four and a half, because it is just about perfect, and grooviness ought to be flexible.


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