Singer-songwriter Jon Byrd, an authentic country music survivor, is practically legendary in East Nashville, but nowhere near a household name anywhere else. Perhaps this fine effort, his fifth full-length, "All Your Mistakes" will begin to change that. He's made several strong strategic moves in that direction by tapping Joe V. McMahan, whose credits include gems from Kevin Gordon and the sister team of Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynn.
His rhythm section boasts bassist Chris Donohue and drummer Bryan Owings for Emmylou Harris' Red Dirt Boys. He has retained his main man, pedal steeliest Paul Niehaus, and welcomed keyboardist Steve Conn and harmony vocalists Shannon Wright, Amelia White and Andrea Zonn (also on fiddle). Chris Carmichael adds string arrangements. This lineup is as "can't miss" as it gets in the Americana/country world.
Nonetheless, Byrd is clearly the star here whether singing his own well-crafted co-written songs or interpreting the likes of Billy Sherrill, Johnny Paycheck, Gary Paxton, and Ian Tyson. Kicking off with "Golden Colorado," co-written with Stephen Simmons, Byrd delivers a melancholy (driven by both Niehaus and the strings), visually evocative tune about loneliness ("the mountains are cold/ in the wintertime with no one to hold') during the glory days of the goldrush.
Sherrill's "These Days" is awash in strings, but Byrd brings out the raw heartache arguably better than the original. The tonality changes abruptly in the incisive and bitter Paycheck tune "(It Won't Be Long) And I'll Be Hating You." He puts a similar spin on the subject in a quieter, brooding, clever wordplay way in his co-write with Shannon Wright, "Why Must You Think of Leaving."
"Miss Kitty's Place," again with Simmons, is a honky tonker about when nostalgia just doesn't live up to its billing while "City People" with Nate Roden and Wright is about that 'third sense' that those people have. His co-write with Kevin Gordon, "I'll Be Her Only One" is a strong feature for the interplay between Niehaus and Zonn as he sings about longing for an earlier stage of the relationship. His cover of Gary Paxton's "Woman, Sensuous Woman" is in the same vein and pure country. Two more covers close it out with stellar production and poignancy – Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" and Bill Trader's "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I," made famous by Elvis Presley. As Byrd says, this is "What they used to call country music." Thankfully we have advocates of Byrd's ilk left.