John Daly's My Life A top music critic riffs on JD's debut album, in which a Tour star's life doubles as a country saga

March 17, 2003

John Daly's life has played like a country song, as he has hit
the kind of highs and lows--winning a PGA Championship and a
British Open, drinking, gambling, divorcing--that inform the work
of George Jones or Jerry Lee Lewis. (Well, maybe the major
championships are a stretch.) So it should come as no surprise
that Daly, an avid guitarist and singer, has come out with his
own country-rock album, My Life, on which he not only wields an
ax and croons lead vocals but for which he wrote all but two of
the songs.

Is this the country album of the year? Of course not, but then it
doesn't claim to be, even with friends like Willie Nelson and
Hootie & the Blowfish chipping in with the occasional harmony or
vocal overdub. Daly makes it a point in several places to admit
that he isn't really a singer, but what he occasionally lacks in
intonation and polish he almost makes up for in pure swagger.

The songs alternate between stomp-down Travis Tritt-type rockers
and heart-on-the-sleeve weepers. There's a knowing nod to Bob
Wills at the beginning of All My Ex's Wear Rolexes and even a
no-nonsense version of Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door.
It's a well-paced, varied program and, at its most agreeable,
Daly's voice has a gritty, slightly serrated edge that might
remind you of Merle Haggard, if you're in a generous mood. (And
it's easier to be generous knowing that all proceeds from the
album go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.)

But Daly shouldn't throw his driver away just yet. His lyrics can
digress into schmaltz ("Wish I could change things/My eyes swell
up with tears/Haven't seen my name on the top/Of the leader board
in years/But I still got you--got you Mr. Fan"). He lands in the
rough most often when he sings about his struggles, as on My Life
and You Don't Know Me, on which he makes a few preemptive strikes
against his critics--those who don't know "the mountains I've
climbed." These songs can sound a little, well, whiny.

Daly is definitely at his best when he tears into a honky-tonk
groove, as on Long Ball Rebel ("Well I grip it and I rip it,
y'all/I'm a good ol' boy from Arkansas"), and the opening I'm
Drunk, Damn Broke (on which he revisits his "wilder days" with
obvious gusto, the drums hitting heavy on the backbeat, a barroom
piano echoing lines like "Most days I sit here talking to
myself/But I don't remember my name"). At moments like these the
longest hitter in golf is having a blast, and he pulls his
listeners along for the fun. --Tom Piazza

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL LAKATOS/WORLD SPORT GROUP/AP (DALY) MOONLIGHTING Daly croons and plays guitar on My Life, and he wrote all but two of the songs. COLOR PHOTO: GOLF EXHIBITION/SCREAM RECORDS (CD)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)