That character is about as straight-arrow and cracker-barrel as commercial country music will allow. Basically, he wants to marry or stay married, and he is determined to accomplish his goal by traditional means, without wile, flash, low humor or surface emotions. “Nothing’s deeper than my love,” he sings (in Deeper ... Than My Love), the closest he gets to a boast. “Even when we’re six feet under/they’ll never have to wonder/if we ever drifted apart,” he sings (in Left Hand Man), the closest he gets to — is that a threat? Anyway: He is patient, constant, stoic, uxorious, deep deep deep.
The strengths of the album live in its valleys, far into the track listing. Not in Punching Bag, the title song that is about what Turner does when he’s taken too many hits: He persists. Not the album’s single, Time Is Love, a soft homily about how relationships must come before business. Not Find Me a Baby, about togetherness and family, in which he sings a ghastly na-na-na chorus with his real wife and sons.
It’s in the tracks about religion and metaphorical death on which something else emerges. In the minor-key Pallbearer, he never leaves his lower registers; harmonizing with Marty Stuart and Iris DeMent, he sings about carrying and interring his own dead relationship. (Depths, again.) And there’s a slightly different cast to his voice; he sounds a little bit moved. In the bluegrass-gospel For the Love of God, he’s driven by true moral zeal: He sings about out-of-control lives, vowing that his faith will never lead him that way.
And in the ballad I Was There, he delivers on what he has perhaps been implicitly promising with that voice of authority all these years, a song sung from the point of view of the creator. (It begins: “I was there, that night in Bethlehem/and when Neil and the boys came to the moon in that tin can.” The rest basically writes itself.) Unblameable, always there, ever-forgiving, deep in the valley, high in the sky: This is the persona from which all his others descend.
— Ben Ratliff, NY Times News Service
Year of the Snake, Fly, ECM
A radical sort of empathy winds through Year of the Snake, the third album by the jazz entity known as Fly. It’s something beyond the usual standard of cohesion for a serious postbop band, with a feeling both effortless and hard-won. For the members of this collective trio — Mark Turner on tenor saxophone, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums — it represents the attainment of an equilibrium and the refinement of a strategy. For the rest of us it’s a reminder of how attractively weird this band can be.
Since the release of its self-titled debut album in 2004, Fly has made a point of thwarting structural hierarchies, an unusual move for a group of its makeup. (Tenor trios have always tended to reflect a pragmatic division of labor, with the saxophonist at the top of a pyramid and the others forming the base.) On this album the musicians go further, giving the impression of inhabiting each other’s headspace, with mesmerizing composure.