Mitch Luckett, Tall Tales & Blue Grass (Independent Release, 2001)

Music and storytelling are related arts. Often, they are inter-related arts; it isn't unusual to hear a musician break into a story, or a storyteller use music to decorate a tale...and that's not taking into account ballads, sagas, and other narrative songs. On Tall Tales & Blue Grass, Mitch Luckett interweaves songs old and new, dance tunes ("nonsense fiddle tunes" as he calls them), and funny narratives based on events in his own life.

I say "based on", because Luckett begins with a disclaimer. He says, "The only reason I would ever tell a lie is...a lie that's actually truer than the truth," going on to state that his stories are just that: truer than the truth.

Luckett's delivery is that of a guy sitting, maybe at a kitchen table, on a back porch or in a barber shop, spinning one of those "you ain't gonna believe this" yarns. This is a live recording, ideal for capturing the ambience and mannerisms of a good storyteller. Recorded live, but there is minimal crowd noise; the audience doesn't seem to want to miss a word.

The music isn't anything to get excited about. Luckett plays banjo and harmonica in a lively, but rough-edged fashion, and sometimes his voice strays away from the established key. That's not a big deal; the music is there to embellish the stories. Except for the first medley of tunes, the musical selections are tied to the stories. One way to interpret this album is that the stories are (very) long introductions to the songs. On the surface, it can appear that the tale of Luckett's wastrel grandfather, Grandpa Joe, to be a lead-in to the original song "I'll Cut The Grass" (something Grandpa Joe rarely did). An eleven-minute intro to a four-minute song? More likely, the song provided an excuse for telling the yarn, and possibly a chance for Luckett to choose his next tale.

And riveting tales they are, too. Luckett is one of those storytellers who can take one item, one act, and use it to set off a comic chain of events. He tells hilarious offbeat, sometimes bittersweet, stories; stories about male bonding with Grandpa Joe, Little League baseball and dance contests, seagulls, horses and yellowjackets. My favorite is the last one on the recording, "The Love, Sex, Passion-mobile", the story of how Luckett, playing harmonica while driving, met the love of his life (a passenger in the above-named vehicle), only to lose sight of her forever moments later as he was pulled over at a speed trap. The audience said "Awww," and so did I. More often, though, I laughed.

"Truer than the truth," Luckett says. How much actual truth is in these stories? When they're told this well, I don't care.

[Tim Hoke]

Mitch Luckett has a Web site