It’s rare moment when a songwriter inspires me as much as Darrell Scott did this past weekend at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Inside The Paramount Center on Friday night, it was standing room only and I kneeled near the front of the stage to take pictures, but I was overwhelmed with a poet who touched the heart and spirits of all in attendance.

I first heard about Darrell Scott from Reagan Boggs. She still sings his popular song, ‘Never Get Out of Harlan Alive’ and although I still enjoy her voice singing these haunting song lyrics, it wasn’t until I experienced this organic performer behind the words that I discovered what so many have been talking about. Leah Ross, festival director for Rhythm and Roots is in love with him too and now I know why.

Scott is a Grammy nominated songwriter, noted for writing songs for The Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley and many more – but he wasn’t wearing makeup. He didn’t have a black hat or a white hat (required attire for male country artists) and he didn’t have a band competing for attention in the fog and lights.

Instead, he was dressed in a black corduroy jacket, a green shirt, disheveled hair and he channeled a mystical presence through the auditorium last Friday with his native songs that touched the hearts of everyone in the room.

He played an acoustic guitar, a piano and a Weissenborn slide guitar, but what was epecially moving was the rich aura between fans and songwriter. It was a prescence like nothing I’ve experienced in a long time and his attention and humility reminded me of James Taylor, Paul Simon and Sting.

We had planned on taping many of the performances at last week’s festival and captured some great moments at the festival, but when I slipped into a seat in the auditorium, I was startled by Dave Carter from WETS-FM.

Dave and I go way back in time and I am blessed to call him a friend. We’ve shared many musical moments together and he seems to show up at some of my most inspiring moments.

At first, I was still in awe of Scott’s performance, gushing about his soul and Dave interupted my infatuation with an invitation to join him on Studio One the next day. He told me Darrell would be performing a live performance at this popular local radio program and I couldn’t wait.

Matthew Carroll got up early on Saturday and Jared brought all of our cameras to the radio studio on the ETSU campus. We had been there less than a year ago to record Charlie Goodwin and it was great to be back on a beautiful September afternoon.

When we walked in, I was surprised to see Darrell Scott and his father Wayne, seated in the studio.

One of the things that immediately occurred to me was the natural organic talent of this singer/songwriter. He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and looked like they hadn’t been up long. He was playing random melodies on his guitar and seemed completely unconcerned about the cameras and confusing rush of cables, and photographers that moved around the studios. We were scrambling to get out of the way too because we arrived about 20 minutes before air-time and they were all completely understanding and calm despite our interruption.

His dad had drove down from Kentucky and Dave had the terrific idea of having them both perform in the studio.

Wayne Scott is 75 years old and had on flip-flops and a black t-shirt. His ’66 Hummingbird guitar was resting in his lap while he sorted his laminated song lyrics on the music stand in front of him.

We scrambled around the room to setup three video cameras. Matthew and I grabbed our hand-helds and set a stationary HD camera in the middle of the room. The lighting was a little dark, but that didn’t seemed to matter. We just tried to stay out of the way of the artists and Darrell had his two teen-age sons with him whom seemed to have a handle on stashing the cases and remaining music gear out of the way.

It wasn’t long before the 1.00 ‘On The Air’ sign came on and Dave Carter began his weekly introduction to one of the area’s most influential and distinguished live music shows. I still have great respect for the passion that he and engineer Mike Strickland put into this weekly effort and they never seem to lose their passion.

Dave introduced Darrell and Wayne and together they had a splendid volley of Q&A and followed by some of the most down-to-earth original music that I’ve heard in a while.

Wayne began with his song ‘Whiskey” with the lyrics – “It ain’t love, it ain’t money – it’s the whiskey that heals the pain.” We taped every single minute of it.

Darrell Scott shared many of the stories behind his songs. He also mentioned a love of poetry of which he spent time in school studying. He shared with me his own appreciation for Walt Whitman and other contemporary authors.

The most important comment made during the show that meant the most to me was the comment that Wayne shared with Darrell early on. The key to songwriting – “tell the truth.” Now more than ever, that’s certainly a distinguishing characteristic for this minstrel poet and one listen and it’s easy to see this instruction has moved across two generations.

Darrell and Wayne played songs from the “Weary Way” project and “Modern Hymns,” plus several other original tunes Scott is famous for including the touching, “My Father’s House,” “Sunday with My Son” and “Never Leave Harlan Alive” which was spellbinding.

After the show, Dave seemed a bit misty-eyed and he stated, “if he never produced another radio show – he would be satisfied with this one being the last.”

He was right too. The stories Darrell and Wayne told about each other and the shared souls that are still creating great songs made for a tremendous radio show and we’re glad we had another chance to document the moment.

Special thanks to Dave Carter, Mike Strickland and production assistant Dan Sewall for allowing us in the studio. Thank you also to Darrell and Wayne for some very special moments.

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