intimate performance in a Rustburg church.
Singer-songwriter Daryl Mosley played for a small audience in Rustburg United Methodist Church Saturday Night. His setlist included “Hillbilly Graham,” a Mosley-original that won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America’s Song of the Year award in 2018, and other hits he penned like the title track from his 2020 album, “The Secret of Life.”
With only his guitar and his voice, which has been described as “smooth as molasses in winter,” Mosley hypnotized the audience for the entirety of his roughly hour-long performance.
Mosley began touring professionally in 1989, and spent much of his career on some of the most hallowed stages in country music like the Grand Ole Opry and Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee. He played with celebrated groups New Tradition, the Osborne Brothers and The Farm Hands.
But Mosley changed tack in 2019, and began touring as a solo act. These days he’s more likely to be found playing in a church or at a songwriters’ festival, rather than at one of his old stomping grounds in Nashville.
Mosley has tended to be the primary songwriter in bands he performed with over the years, and told the Altavista Journal on Saturday that writing high-quality songs has only become more important to him as he has grown older.
“I enjoy this as much as anything I’ve ever done musically,” he said about his current approach.
Mosley’s default mode during performances is storyteller. His show is full of personal anecdotes, like his memory of an Elvis movie that inspired him to begin playing music in the first place. Though he couldn’t remember its name, he said one scene, in which the King of Rock wins over a female character by playing her a song on his guitar, has always stuck with him.
Then there’s “Toad,” a man who worked as a barber in Waverly for decades, and who served as the inspiration for the aforementioned “Secret of Life,” after giving Mosley a piece of advice during a haircut one afternoon.
“The secret of life ain’t no secret at all,” the chorus goes, “just keep on moving forward, get up each time you fall. Some good friends you can count on, an understanding wife and a fresh hot cup of coffee, that’s the secret of life.”
Mosley has a penchant for mining his own small-town upbringing for minutiae that will stick with listeners.
One song in particular, “Mama’s Bible,” which Mosley performed on Saturday, caught the attention of Betty Cyrus, a parishioner of Rustburg United Methodist Church who came to the show.
“Mama’s Bible” will be featured on Mosley’s newest album “Small Town Dreamer,” which Mosley said is slated for release on November 5. The song describes a child flipping through the pages of their mother’s Bible, finding items that tell the story of her life like a pressed rose, pictures of loved ones and her husband’s obituary.
Cyrus said she recently had an experience similar to that of the child described in the song when she looked back through her grandmother’s Bible.
“It was just that way; very thick, and it had all kinds of clippings in it,” she said.
Cyrus and her husband, Jimmy, said they didn’t know Mosley’s name when they first heard he would be performing in Rustburg, but decided to see him this weekend after they looked him up and recognized some his songs.
“I really enjoyed the stories behind the songs,” Betty Cyrus said after the show. “I think that makes a big difference when you know that.”
The Rev. Ray McGarr, pastor of Rustburg First United Methodist Church, said it’s not uncommon for musicians like Mosley to call asking to perform at his church, though it doesn’t always work out.
“We were just honored that he could come,” McGarr said.
After performing in 49 states it’s difficult for Mosley to remember what cities he has played in and when. But Mosley said tours have led him to many shows in Virginia over the years, and that he has always enjoyed performing in the Commonwealth.
“I love the people here, and just the sense of community that this area has,” he said. “I’ve always felt at home here.”