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Originally published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 7:54 PM

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Davies’ album showcases rock, country and pop

A star-studded cast of Nashville-recording artists brings life to the songs written by the late Ron Davies.

Seattle Times music critic

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Ron Davies was at heart a ’70s-style, Tim Hardin-like singer-songwriter, but this excellent album showcases not just his folk-rock side, but country, pop, rock, blues and novelty fare.

John Prine sings one of the best tracks, the bouncy kiss-off “You Stayed Away Too Long,” done vaudeville-style and featuring the great line, “ominous with promises, alibis and lies.”

Davies’ love of wordplay also comes through on a catchy tune he wrote with Seattle singer-songwriter Lisa Dilk, “Walk and Don’t Walk” (“I’m standing on the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk,” sings Guy Clark), and a lush, string-sweetened ballad, “It’s Too Late,” in which Dolly Parton laments that falling in love “wasn’t on my list of things to do” but that she might as well give in.

Davies made a specialty of sad, sweet ballads. Full-throated Mandy Barnett caresses the inspirational “Long Hard Climb,” written about Davies’ first, failed marriage, till it sparkles. Crystal Gayle offers an intimate rendition of the touching “True Lovers and Friends,” which boasts an intricate, jazz-influenced bridge, and Gill and Kelly Hogan offer an earnest boy-girl duet on “More Today Than Yesterday.”

“Good Love After Bad,” sung by Alison Krauss over slow, deliberate piano, combines Davies’ penchant for jazzy intervals with his bittersweet take on love.

But the rolling-country ballad, “Innocent Eyes,” done by Kevin Welch, touches Davies’ core. A reflection on the impossibility of recapturing the freshness of young love, it is a probing, sensitive, introspective song that squarely places Davies in the league of singer-songwriters like Hardin and James Taylor.

“Unsung Hero” includes a couple of redneck novelties — one quite funny, the other a little puzzling — clearly aimed at the Nashville hit machine. “Hey Honey I’m Home,” sung by BR549, is a hilarious catalog of outlandish excuses a husband might concoct upon arriving home drunk. “Say It With Money,” on the other hand, sounds oddly harsh.

Though he grew up around Puget Sound, Davies always “had this hankering to get back to the South,” according to his sister Gail Davies. That comes through on “Back to the South,” sung by Suzy Bogguss, a song so well-crafted it makes you feel like you’ve known it all your life.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com

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