You ain't heard nothin' yet.
Country-music listeners probably think they know the music of Darryl Worley because of hits like "I Miss My Friend," "A Good Day to Run" and "Have You Forgotten." But the 6'6" Tennessee traditionalist is issuing an album that completely reinvents him as an artist. Darryl Worley, his 2004 DreamWorks Records collection, is a revelation in every way. The songwriting, his vocal performances, the sound quality, the energy level and the sheer musicality of this album are all a leap beyond anything he has done to date.
Darryl Worley is this man's first real statement as an artist.
"This almost feels like my first album," Worley comments. "The other records got me ready to make this. We did some things in the studio very differently this time. I wanted this to have a bit more of an edge. I wanted some honky-tonk 'grease' on it. I wanted to pick up the tempo. I wanted to have fun.
"The sonic tone of this music has changed drastically. I told the guys in the studio, 'Let's not worry too much about the technical end. Let's not try to make this thing sound perfect. Let's make it sound like live music.' You can definitely feel that in the performances. And I think I'm singing better than I ever have.
"I feel something in this music that I have never felt before. We're still cutting country records, and I'll always write and sing songs with messages. But this time the lyrics are with music that has cooler grooves. My music has grown a lot. And I think when people hear it, they're going to say, 'You've come a long way.'"
It's clear from the opening notes of "Awful Beautiful Life." The rumbling "outlaw" bass and stuttering electric guitars, announce that Darryl Worley is here to kick some serious musical butt. "Was It Good for You" is a sexy, romping merry maker. Worley's chesty delivery of "Better Than I Deserve" is backed by bouncing fiddle bows, twanging guitars and a stompin' groove. As is typical of this CD, there's a message in the lyric, as well as a lively new sound.
"While we were out on the road, I watched the dynamics of other artists' shows Keith Urban, Montgomery Gentry, Trace Adkins and I noticed how they moved along better. I thought, 'If I'm lacking anything, it's probably a little more tempo to the show.' So this album has better grooves, more tempo. But you know me: Even the uptempo stuff has usually got a hard-hitting message to it."
For an illustration, consider "Work and Worry." There's a moral prescription inside its wildly entertaining, loose-limbed, good-timey, funky musical vibe. "If it Hadn't Been for Love" has a dark, moody, intense track with a strong rhythmic undertow. All of which perfectly fit its tale of murder and imprisonment. The story song "If Something Should Happen" has a lilting melody and a breezy production. Yet it is told from the point of view of a man who's going to be operated on for cancer.
When he first appeared on the scene four years ago, Darryl Worley was in the vanguard of what became a full-fledged back-to-country movement among newcomers in Music City. His supremely expressive honky-tonk phrasing on the steel-drenched "If I Could Tell the Truth" and the lonely, yearning "Find Me" prove that he still takes a back seat to no one as a traditional country singer. On "What Makes a Man Do That," his baritone vocal dips are appropriately chilling. And there isn't a performance on disc today that is as gut-bucket country as Worley's is on the hilarious barroom yarn "I Love Her, She Hates Me."
He tackles the problem of the spread of rural drug abuse in "Wake Up America." And Darryl Worley is just as powerful a communicator in his inspirational meditation on death that closes the album, "Whistle Dixie."
Songs like those are reminders that he is one of our most gifted country songwriters. But it took years for the artist, himself, to realize the extent of his musical abilities.
Darryl Worley was raised in Hardin County, TN the home of Walking Tall sheriff Buford Pusser. Both sides of his family were musical, and the boy was singing and playing guitar before he reached his teens. He turned to songwriting during his high-school years.
But Worley honored his father in seeking a professional career, rather than pursuing music. He graduated from the University of North Alabama in 1987 and took a job as a research biologist in Tuscumbia, AL. Later, he formed his own chemical-supply business. Yet all the while, he was writing songs and performing in honky-tonks.
"There are volumes of songs. You wouldn't believe how much of my stuff has never been published. I played these songs in all those beer joints North Alabama, West Tennessee, North Mississippi -- and every time I'm back in those areas, somebody says, 'What about that song so-and-so? Are you ever going to do anything with that?' One of these days, I might make a whole album of that stuff."
He says he was living wild in those days, perhaps running from the destiny he secretly knew might be his.
"Even when I was working, I always played music. I thought I needed my dad's blessing to go forward with the music. Really it was me holding me back more than anything. But I think that was part of the Plan. That 'other' side of me was really raging wild at that time. I'm not even close to the same person that I was then. I probably would have screwed it all up if I'd been given a break.
"I had a career. I was making a lot of money. When I chose music, I had a lot of people say to me, 'You're losing your damn mind.' My dad wasn't that hard-core against it, but he was pretty strongly in favor of 'a regular check.' Mom is a great singer herself, and talented in every direction. She said, 'You're a grown man, and I can't tell you what to do. But don't let the sun go down on your dreams.'"
So in 1992 Darryl Worley ditched a "regular check" to become a $150-a-week songwriter in Muscle Shoals, AL. But repeated overtures to become a Nashville recording artist failed. By 1994, he felt he was spinning his wheels.
He returned home to work as a landscaper by day, songwriter at night and Nashville music-busiiness explorer on off days and weekends. As a result, EMI Music offered him a Music Row songwriting contract in 1995.
"I'd resigned myself to the fact that my dream of making records might not come true. I hadn't given up on my artistry, because I get just as much a thrill out of playing at songwriters' nights. So I insisted that me being an artist was not to be the focus when I signed with EMI. I wanted to be signed as a songwriter and to make my living as one. So they agreed.
"After I recorded my first five songs at a 'demo' session, they said, 'We think we can get you a record deal!' I said, 'C'mon, man, that's not what we talked about.' They said, 'Yeah, but that's what you've always wanted.'"
He refused to perform in Nashville for record labels that were interested, telling them they could come to see him on his "home turf" if they chose. To his surprise, DreamWorks Records executives flew in to hear him play at one of his weekly honky-tonk gigs in Savannah, TN. He signed with the label in February 1998.
Darryl Worley debuted on the country charts with a trio of top-20 hits in 2000-01, "When You Need My Love," "A Good Day to Run" and "Second Wind." All were taken from his CD Hard Rain Don't Last. So was "Sideways," which became his fourth single.
His breakthrough year was 2002. Worley's touching ballad "I Miss My Friend," the title tune to his second CD, became his first No. 1 hit that spring. It was followed by the bluesy, swinging "Family Tree" later in the year. After performing as a Horizon Award nominee on the 2002 CMA Awards national CBS telecast, he spent Christmas entertaining America's troops in Afghanistan.
Then current events intervened. After overhearing a conversation about the Afghan War, he quickly wrote and recorded the topical "Have You Forgotten." In early 2003, it shot up the charts to No. 1 and brought him an Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist award nomination. The label quickly assembled 12 tracks from his first two CDs, including five of his singles, and Worley provided four new tunes. The resulting Have You Forgotten CD became his first Gold Record. "Tennessee River Run" and "I Will Hold My Ground" were pulled as two more charting singles last year.
"I have to accept the fact that 'Have You Forgotten' is going to get the best response of the night whenever we play it, for the rest of my life. And I'm very thankful for the song. Every time I do an interview, that's the very first thing that comes up, and that may never change. Still, I had to figure out a way to move on.
"That's why I went dormant for about six months. I spent the month of December touring the Middle East [for the troops]. When I got home, I said, 'I need to get away, write, work on the music and hide out.'"
Fortunately for Darryl Worley, hiding out is fairly easy. After he married home- town girl Beverly Dean Irvin in 2001, the couple settled in little Savannah, TN rather than Nashville. Beverly runs the Worleybird Café there. Its walls are covered with her husband's memorabilia and photos. Billed as "The Catfish Capital of the World," Savannah is a classic Tennessee rural community that's near the banks of the Tennessee River, just north of the historic Shiloh Civil War battlefield and scenic Pickwick Lake. It's not only the perfect songwriter's "getaway," it's the roots of Worley's raising.
His commitment to the community is strong. After staging a televised "homecoming" event in 2001, Worley inaugurated his "Tennessee River Run." The three annual concert/picnic/festival events staged at Pickwick Landing State Park since then have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Darryl Worley Foundation. The money is distributed to locals who face financial hardship a burned home, a burial for an impoverished family, scholarships for needy students and the like. An area anti-drug effort is a current beneficiary. And some funds also goes to national causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and St. Jude's Hospital for Children. Fellow artists John Anderson, Trace Adkins, Andy Griggs and others have costarred with Worley at these.
"Since the beginning, I have stayed true to my home town and to my roots in traditional country music," says Darryl Worley. "I want the reputation with the fans as being someone they can depend on. Maybe with most artists, you're going to buy an album and get maybe three or four good songs on it. But if you'll buy that Darryl Worley CD, you're gonna get 12 good songs. Every time. You're going to get your money's worth. It's not rocket science: It's three chords and the truth. But it's good music.
"This stage that I'm going through, this new musical thing, I'm not going to let it stop now. I can't. I've come to a brand new place, and I just want to keep that happening. Because this is where I'm supposed to be."
--- from the official Darryl Worley website