Kentucky-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott offers up this excellent tribute album to his friend Ben Bullington, a small town doctor and amateur songwriter from Montana who died of cancer in 2013. The two met years before, not as musicians, but as recently divorced fathers camping with their kids in Yellowstone National Park. Their friendship grew over the years, though it wasn't until 2012 that Bullington's prognosis looked grim and he began sharing his songs with Scott. A veteran Nashville session man with a number of high-profile songs and co-writes to his credit, Scott was struck by the quality of his friend's warmhearted and well-structured folk songs. The idea to record a cover album of Bullington's material came to him in 2013, and during his friend's final months, Scott worked out arrangements of several songs, recording demos on his iPhone and sending them to Bullington. One of these simple demo recordings, the moving piano ballad "I've Got to Leave You Now," appears as the last track on Ten: Songs of Ben Bullington. Most of the other tracks, while recorded in a studio, are equally spare in presentation, letting the songs tell their own stories. Highlights like the powerful "Born in '55" and "Thanksgiving 1985" reveal Bullington as a nuanced and passionate writer with an introspective streak who could also be very honest and direct. Scott handles the material deftly on guitar, banjo, and piano, and his smooth, earthy voice cracks in all the right places. Already a strong album in its own right, the poignancy of its circumstances adds an additional weight that Scott shoulders with ease and respect.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger