Colin McCaffrey's new CD, Tired of Town, is a gloriously tidy affair. His third solo release finds the central Vermont singer-songwriter bagging the overdubs for a stripped-down tour of some of his favorite music, past and present.
McCaffrey makes sure the attention is right where it belongs: on his exceptional guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass and vocal abilities. Except for a guest piano appearance by local mix master Chuck Eller, and some sweet baritone ukulele by Vermont musician Lewis Franco, Tired is all McCaffrey, all the time.
The album's vocals were recorded with a vintage RCA ribbon microphone, and the result is pleasantly warm and cozy. McCaffrey's gentle crooning is like vintage James Taylor, but with a more pronounced twang.
On Fats Waller's classic "Honeysuckle Rose," McCaffrey whistles the horn solos straight from one of the pianist's most famous Bluebird recording sessions. Hank Williams' plaintive "Weary Blues From Waiting" features a lovely and understated guitar solo. There's a bare-bones reading of Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," while Jimmie Rodgers' "Mississippi Delta Blues" comes with an authentic yodel.
McCaffrey's gorgeous take on the 1920s Tin Pan Alley chestnut "Bye Bye Blackbird" is nestled alongside four originals that fit well with his eclectic selection of covers.
The disc also features two cuts by Franco and Pete Sutherland. That these gifted Vermont songwriters would allow McCaffrey to record their tunes even before they had done so themselves is a testament to his reputation as a respected studio and onstage musician.
Tired of Town's spare, lovely arrangements leave no place to hide. But talent like McCaffrey's needs no obstruction; he goes out on the ledge with confidence. Hear him with his honky-tonk outfit the Stone Cold Roosters at the Middle Earth Music Hall on Friday, June 2.