Album Review of
Bridges and Backroads

Written by Joe Ross
May 9, 2021 - 12:39am EDT
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Born and raised in Ohio, Jerry Salley now makes his home in Nashville where he’s created a strong niche for himself as a performer, songwriter and recording artist. In 1982, he began his career at Opryland USA doing impressions of famous country stars, and his original songs have been recorded by a long list of country and bluegrass stars.  He won IBMA Songwriter of the Year Awards in 2018 and 2019 following his release of his Front Porch Philosophy and All God’s Children Sing albums. As a solo artist, Salley has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Today Show.

On Bridges and Backroads, he’s accompanied by a solid band of instrumentalists and background vocalists to present twelve well-crafted bluegrass songs. That helped the album climb as high as #2 last winter on The Roots Music Report’s Contemporary Bluegrass Album Chart. For the opener, Aaron McDaris’ crisp banjo kicks off “I Miss My Miss in Mississippi,” a song with a catchy hook. Equally comfortable with a slower-paced number, Salley delivers each lyric in “Let Me Be the Bridge” with convincing emotion. “Waltz Through the Ages” is sung in a duet with Rhonda Vincent. Nostalgic, sentimental themes in “I Take the Back Roads,” “How I Want To Be Remembered” and “A Memory Like Mine” allow the tunesmith and his collaborators to paint evocative scenes with their melodies and lyrics.

Relaxed fills and solos from Jason Roller (fiddle, guitar), Justin Moses (mandolin, resonator guitar), and Greg “Papaw” Davis and Aaron McDaris (banjo) provide just the right colorings for this radio-friendly hybrid of bluegrass and country twang. Co-penned with Donna Ulisse, “Be Better to Your Neighbor” features the two of them singing together, and “Hillbilly Lilly” establishes a nice, rollicking groove. Salley is also an exceptional songwriter of gospel material, and “Without Forgiveness” certainly doesn’t disappoint. The album closer, “Life to My Days” has also been receiving considerable airplay and provides good advice to all who wish to add more days to their lives. His songs have been carefully sculpted, like artwork, with much hard work, attention to detail and passion. Jerry Salley’s calming, well-produced, professional contemporary bluegrass has allowed him to solidify his footing as both singer and songwriter in that genre. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)