Remember back in the day when Tipper Gore was running around looking to put warning labels on albums? Tipper’s aim was off a bit. As Todd Snider would point out, that song “Louie Louie” was never the reason teenagers were necking in the backseat of old Fords. But after listening to Jody Mosser’s fine solo debut, “Hands Full,” we’re beginning to think Tipper’s idea of warning labels might have had some merit.
The warning label we have in mind, though, would not be aimed at kids. There is nothing here that any parent would not want their children to hear. In fact, the problem is just the opposite. Parents, especially “Girl Dads” are apt to drive their teenagers nuts by insisting they listen to the album’s title cut together. And that is when things might get messy.
Thus the proposed warning label: “Title cut likely to make girl dads misty and may bring tears of joy. Don’t listen without having a tissue handy.”
It’s a tender bluegrass lullabye, our favorite cut on an album that doesn’t have a bad track. It’s a song that came in his sleep to Mosser, who along with his wife Karah (who sings harmony on it), is expecting his first child — a baby girl — any day now. Ironically it came almost as an after thought.
The album is not named after the title cut. That is an amazing coincidence. Like a lot of creative people, Mosser keeps his phone at his bedside so he can jot down notes when he wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea. As the album was nearing completion, he had nine songs and knew he needed a tenth. The album was already named “Hands Full,” inspired by the idea Mosser had for the cover photo — him seemingly playing all the instruments he plays on the album at once.
That was the situation one night, not long after they’d learned it’s going to be a girl, that Mosser woke up from dreaming of his daughter to be thinking about how he could not wait to have his hands full with her. In the phone went the note “I can’t wait to have my hands full with you” and the title cut was born.
And thus that warning label. If you have daughters (we have three) and can listen to Mosser sing “Little girl, I can’t wait to hold you and, Wipe away your tears and tell you its alright” without it just going right through you, either you are lying or you are a cleverly disguised being from a distant galaxy.
The rest of the album is an outstanding display of Mosser’s multi-instrumental talents. Best known as the dobro master of both The Jakobs Ferry Stragglers and The Plate Scrapers, Mosser plays almost every instrument on the album. The exception is the fiddle, the one bluegrass instrument Mosser has yet to master.
The fiddling on the album is provided by his Jakobs Ferry Straggler bandmates Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman and Libby Eddy. Eddy also chips in with beautiful harmony vocals on a few songs. The two especially shine twin fiddling on “Old Grimes,” a traditional Old Time tune that is the only song on the album that Mosser didn’t write or co-write. Mitch Hall plays clawhammer banjo on the track, which was recorded live in the studio.
The rest of the album is a collection of older songs that Mosser wanted to re-record and new stuff, much of which began as demos of stuff intended for the Stragglers before deciding to record them himself in his home studio.
Fans of Grand Ole Ditch, one of Mosser’s previous bands, will recognize “This Time,” as a new interpretation of that song. Likewise, folks who go way back with Mosser to his days in Porch Grass should recognize “Allegany Sun,” a song written by Matt Hamilton that Mosser learned from ol bandmate Nathan Graham, which for some reason reminds us of DelFest everytime we hear it (“There ain’t nothing that shines so sweetly, Than the Allegany Sun”).
While the album ends with a lullabye, it begins with a hard driving wakeup call, “Syracuse Express,” and instrumental with Mosser taking turns shining on guitar, mandolin, dobro and bass, with Bruckman on fiddle and the instrumental “Pickin’ for Breakfast.” The two old musical companions (they played together in Ditch before JFS) also team up for a fun coming home to you romp “When the Sea Meets the Sound” and a Mosser lap-steel studded Western Swing number, “Baby Jane.”
Eddy shines on the lovely ballad “First Last Day of Summer,” her high notes perfectly balanced with Mosser’s strong vocals and her fiddle complimenting Mosser’s clawhammer and mandolin.
In all this album is a splendid, toe-tapping treat from a guy who deserves to step into the limelight after so many years as an outstanding sideman.
Mosser is not sure how, his hands already full with two bands and an ambitious list of lesson clientele, but he plans to fit in some shows to back the new release. He’ll start Saturday at the Deep End (formerly Dante’s) in Frostburg, with members of both his bands backing him.
Here’s hoping he schedules a gig in our neighborhood. And here’s hoping we remember to stick a bandanna in the back pocket of our jeans just in case he plays “that song.”
“Hands Full” will be officially released Dec. 3. Hard copies will be available at the Deep End release party. It will also be available to purchase a CD or download from Mosser’s web site and all major online music sites.
You can “preview” two songs as singles now.