Chris Young Doesn’t Give a Shit… Neither Will I

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Remember the days when Chris Young actually gave a crap about the music he released? He was a neo traditionalist with a cowboy hat and a killer voice. Back in the days of Neon, I actually considered Chris Young to be one of my favorite artists. When his last album I’m Comin’ Over came out I was left wanting a hell of a lot more than what I got. It was essentially adult contemporary/pop/a little country and it was boring, generic and safe as could be. There wasn’t one song on the entire album that stood out as a great song. The last single from the album “Sober Saturday Night” wasn’t the greatest but at least if someone was listening to it they could tell it was actually a country song.

With the lead single for Young’s 7th album we get the worst garbage that has ever come out of Chris Young’s mouth. “Losing Sleep” is a ripoff of Justin Bieber of all people and in no way resembles anything to do with country music. You want to know what this song is about? Guess. It’s about having lots of sex. You know it’s good if it’s causing you to stay up all night losing sleep. I guess the sex wouldn’t be as good if one or both parties were asleep during. The alternative ending to this song is getting turnt while listening to Justin Bieber and Drake.

Grade: F 1/10 His voice elevates this song to a 1.

Chris Stapleton From A Room Volume 1 Album Review

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Thus far I have seen mixed reactions for Chris Stapleton’s new album From A Room. Perhaps the coolness factor of Stapleton has worn off for some or maybe their expectations were unrealistic and incapable of being met. In 2015 Chris Stapleton released his debut album Traveler and it was met with critical praise across the board. However, it wasn’t until Chris Stapleton performed at the CMA awards that November with Justin Timberlake that transformed him into the biggest selling star in country music by a mile. Without significant radio play and with a record label label that is completely inept Stapleton has shown no signs of slowing down. This record which is one of two expected to be released this year received little to no promotion from Mercury and didn’t even have a lead single released to radio until after the album was released. Thankfully Chris did get hourly play from IHeart radio stations once the single was released (not that he needs radio anyway) but it makes you wonder how Mercury could be doing this to their biggest star. It’s as though this was rushed out to the public with no thought behind how to market it at all.

With that all being said though, this is a fantastic album. My complaints about the album are mostly all about how this was released and the fact that it’s only a 9 song album with little new material. I actually think it’s a good idea for Chris to release 2 albums this year because there is an appetite from the fans but also because he is probably sitting on mountains of great songs that have yet to be released. But if the whole idea of this was to get a bunch of songs out to the public why would your first album in 2 years only have 9 songs?

Getting to the content of the album I am amazed that the praise for this album hasn’t been universal. Vocally we all understand how incredible Stapleton is and that is showcased on the lead single “Either Way.” I’m a little bit surprised that they picked a sad/slower tempo song as the first single but this is the best song on the album. The power of Stapleton’s voice in the chorus of this song is breathtaking. The two people in this track are in a marriage that is on it’s last legs. They fake the perfect life when they are out but in reality they are no longer in love with each other. The husband doesn’t care if his wife leaves him or stays because he won’t love her either way.

The album mostly follows these themes of sadness and despair but the tempo and subject matter change on songs like “Second One To Know” and “Them Stems.” The former is a rocking guitar driven love song whereas the latter is a song about you guessed it, pot. I dismissed this song a little bit at first even though it’s not a bad song. I just don’t really connect with these songs about drugs and drug references. It’s so overdone in country music and I’m sure Chris has better songs to get out there.

Stapleton does a remarkable job of covering Willie Nelson on “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning.” For those of you that don’t know the song, a man describes the day that his wife walked out on him. Everything that morning went wrong including his alarm going off late and spilling his coffee but, the last thing that he needed to happen was his wife leaving him. It’s another song with a simple production and it’s great to hear the harmonica in this song.

Another song on this album that I love is “Up To No Good.” Whether it be the steel guitar or the vocals, it’s great. As a married man Chris sings a lot of songs about relationships and marriage and this is one of them. The wife doesn’t trust her husband even though he has never given her a reason not to trust him. In his past he did some bad things and broke the law but when he met her he got his act together. It’s deeply upsetting to him that she doesn’t trust him after all this time.

“I Was Wrong” and “Without Your Love” are songs that show the importance of a particular love and what what would happen to him without it. The former is just an honest song about mistakes made and the man begging to take back the words he said. He regrets telling her that he didn’t love her and that he would be better off with someone else. He still loves her and he feels alone without her and he was wrong.

The album concludes with “Death Row” which feels like a detour from the rest of the album thematically. A man is waiting on death row to be murdered by the state for a crime that it’s unclear whether he committed or not. The song takes you into the mind and prison cell of this man in the final hours of his life. This song really lets Stapleon’s voice stand out maybe more than any other song and again the dialed back production helps.

This might not be the best album of the year by years end but it will damn sure be close. At the very least I can be sure that nobody will match the vocal performance that Stapleton puts on on this album. I definitely look forward volume 2 and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with the same type of songs or if he goes into other themes/sounds. As a follow up to Traveller this did not disappoint, my only wish was that there were more than 9 songs and that it was rolled out better.

Grade:  A- 9/10

Best Songs:  Either Way, Second One To Know, Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning

Angaleena Presley Wrangled Album Review

 

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Yesterday I published a fake news type piece where I poked fun at Kelsea Ballerini’s immature pop music. Angaleena Presley however is the antithesis of everything that Kelsea Ballerini is. Angaleena Presley does not get radio play. She doesn’t have 3 number 1 hits, or even 1. Her music is mature and honest and damn sure isn’t Disney glitter pop. Her music is smart, it’s vulnerable and at times it can get pretty gritty. As a member of the group the Pistol Annies, Presely is not alone in making really good country music. The two other members of that group Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe have in the last couple of years released some of the best albums in country music despite limited radio play in the case of Miranda and practically no radio play in the case of Ashley Monroe. I had always planned to review this album when I had learned that it would be released in April but what really peaked me interest was the collaboration that had everyone talking with Yeowolf who is a country rapper.

The song is called “Country” and it is one of the many songs in the last few years that has criticized the direction of mainstream country music. Her and Yeowolf aren’t really even talking about the sound of the music but the substance. The music that is generic and dishonest. In Yeowolf’s part of the song he raps about how corporate radio has become and how there’s no more Hank or Johnny Cash on the radio. It’s all just country posers on the radio. He even drops Sturgill Simpson’s name saying “Thank God for Sturgill Simpson.” Although I like the idea for the country criticism song, the delivery is frankly unpleasant. It’s not a song that I would honestly want to hear again because it is too grungy and loud. It’s almost a mixture of punk rock and garage country which isn’t something I enjoy.

Where the album really shines are on songs that are personal to Presley like “Dreams Don’t Come True” and “Wrangled.” The former is about what Presley had expected when she moved to Nashville to chase her dream of being a country artist. She had expected to get a record deal and drive a fancy car. She would make hit records and eventually get hooked on drugs. In reality however she got pregnant and never became a big star. The message that she tries to get across is that not only do dreams not come true but in the process they break your heart and hurt you. The title track is about Presley feeling like she is physically constrained and trapped being a housewife. She needs to get back to being herself where she can be free.

The theme of personal introspective songs continues with “Outlaw” and “Mama I Tried.” On “Outlaw” she describes how she wants to fit in and be like everyone else but she can’t. People assume that she is simply brave and tough but everything she has ever done has been for desperation. “Mama I Tried” is a rock song that talks about how her mother wanted her to make it big so that she could buy her fancy jewelry and clothes. She tried to make it big and came close but she fell short and will never make it now that age has passed her by.

A track like “High School” does a really good job of delving into the stresses and problems that both girls and boys face. The first part of the song talks about a girl who gets pregnant in high school and is ostracized for it. She tries to hide the pregnancy but she is already starting to show. She is afraid girls will tease her and boys won’t want to date the mother to be. The story then changes perspectives to talk about the boy whose life is all about throwing a ball and trying to be like his father. When he gets upset (being a boy) he’s not supposed to cry or show emotion so he takes pills in order to feel better.

Even though I like the album more than I dislike it I find it hard to get past the production on too many songs. Earlier I had mentioned my problems with “Country” and they are also present and songs like “Good Girl Down” and “Motel Bible.” There is simply to much being done to Presley’s voice and it makes it difficult for me to enjoy even if I find the lyrics to be strong. I can appreciate the honesty and quality of the lyrics of this album but it can’t be one of the best albums of the year for me if half the album is difficult to listen to.

Grade: B- 7/10

Best Songs: Wrangled, Dreams Don’t Come True

Charlie Worsham Beginning of Things Album Review

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Count myself among the people who like Charlie Worsham. Besides the fact that he comes across as an extremely likable guy, he makes great music. He’s not afraid to be different from the crowd and release music that although still country, is innovative and unique. Charlie’s debut album Rubberband was released in 2013 at the height of the bro country era when quality music did not fit in well on country radio (it still doesn’t). Prior to releasing his first album since 2013, Worsham released a few songs from the upcoming album basically an ep’s worth of material. I have to say I was very intrigued by the sounds that I was hearing and even wrote a review for the title track  The Beginning of Things.

This album although country definitely pushes boundaries and includes something that is becoming more common on country songs and that is horns. We hear the horns loud and clear on one of my favorite tracks on this album “Call You Up” which tells the story of a man who plans to call up his ex one day if he ever gets over her. He wants to call her to find out how she’s doing, if she ever met anyone and to laugh about the way that she broke his heart. He thinks about her all the time no matter what is going on. It’s a very smooth, catchy song which is the case with a number of songs on this album.

Worsham also displays a great sense of humor with songs like “Take Me Drunk” and “Lawn Chair Don’t Care.” The latter is a song I have seen that a lot of people don’t really care for and see it as label meddling however, I have to admit I kind of like it. It’s a catchy, relaxing song about all the stresses and problems in life. Despite all this he is going to just sit back in his lawn chair for awhile and not think about it. Is it a great song or one of the best tracks on the album? No, but it’s harmless.

One of the songs on the album that I agree with the consensus is “Birthday Suit.” What the hell is that?! I know that he was trying to be different with the album and Worsham has a sense of humor but what in tarnation? This is in stark contrast to “Beginning of Things” which displays excellent storytelling. This is the story of a man named Bill, his wife Samantha and their daughter. Bill only likes the beginning of things in life and shortly after marrying Samantha and having a daughter, Bill leaves them. Eventually, Sam’s mother gets dementia and has days where she doesn’t even remember who her daughter is. When she passes away the daughter and Bill show up to the funeral where she confronts her father about what he did to her mother. She tells him that Samantha never blamed you for what he did to them but she (his daughter) always did. To avoid the confrontation Bill grabs his things and leaves. He only likes the beginning of things and a funeral is of course the end.

The lead single “Cut Your Groove” is a great example of a fun, uptempo song that actually has something to say. This argues that if you have something to say, or a melody to get it out there. Make other people hear it even if you have to shout it out there. There’s a little bit of the idea of chasing your dreams as an artist which we get more clearly on “Only Way to Fly.” Chase your dreams and leave all your baggage behind, it’s the only way to live your life.

The most traditional track on this album is “Old Time Sake” which has some steel guitar and light acoustic guitar. The setting is a bar where the man meets a woman. He likes her and asks her to sit with him and talk for awhile. He is getting over a broken heart and is looking to start something new for old time sake. When a song comes on that they both like he asks her to dance. At the end of the night, instead of hooking up with her he simply walks her to her car because he doesn’t want to move too fast since this could be something special. It’s a refreshing take on the idea of two people meeting in a bar. With all the bar hookup songs circulating the last few years it’s nice to hear something like this. “Southern By the Grace of God” isn’t traditional sounding but is pretty standard country in theme with references to unlocked doors, crickets and a slow southern drawl. He even makes the joke that you can’t out country him.

“Please People Please” feels like a realization for Worsham in the mainstream country business. You can never please people no matter what you do and he’s not going to chase after trends and try and be something that he is not. He’s going to write and sing songs about what he’s feeling and if your music is going to just be a targeted, formulaic thing than what is the point?

“I Ain’t Going Nowhere” is a song that feels like one of the weaker tracks on the album even if it’s not a bad song. Two people in a relationship are having an argument but regardless of how bad it gets the man tells the woman he’s not going anywhere. The ah, ah’s in this song are incredibly annoying to me.

A really strong track “I-55” is one of the last songs on the album and one of the best. This is the story about returning to your hometown after being gone for a long time. The man in this song makes the long drive home any time he feels his life is getting to be to much or when he wants to catch up with old friends.

I like this album and I like that Charlie Worsham is doing something different while still remaining country. You will actually hear real music (not computerized) being played on this album and clever, non generic songwriting. This album was not perfect and there were a few songs I could have done without but overall this is an enjoyable album and a nice return for Charlie Worsham. Unfortunately, Charlie’s current single is struggling at radio but, the good news is radio is about to implode!

Grade: B- 7/10

Best Songs: The Beginning of Things, Call You Up, I-55

Brad Paisley Love and War Album Review

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Brad Paisley’s last album Moonshine in the Trunk appeared to be the beginning of the end for Brad not only from a hit perspective but a creative perspective. His 10th album was far from his greatest work and the lead single from his 11th studio album Love and War failed to even crack the top 10 despite a collaboration with Demi Lovato. “Without a Fight” tried to garner crossover appeal and win over country radio which appeared to be tiring of Paisley and they were unsuccessful. The album was delayed multiple times before finally being released on April  21st.

I’ll be honest I didn’t feel “Without a Fight” was a bad song even though I really can’t stand when pop stars do collaborations with country artists. As a lead single I could absolutely have lived with it. It was however left off of Love and War because they wanted to market “Today” which was actually successful and a number 1 song as the true lead single which I understand. But, I think “Without a Fight is better than a few songs on Love and War which clocks in at a whopping 16 songs.

For years I was on the side of more songs is better but over the last few months I have reviewed albums that would be much better if they had just left some filler songs off completely and this album is no different. Songs like “Contact High” and “Go to Bed Early” are just a complete waste of time. These are Paisley’s sexy songs on the album but to me they are just generic filler tracks that the album would benefit from their removal.

In terms of collaborations I was less than enthusiastic when the album was announced and I learned of appearances by Mick Jagger, Demi Lovato (scrapped) and 2 songs featuring Timbaland. Again, I don’t enjoy when artists outside the genre are forced into “country” songs just to get crossover appeal or to gain radio attention. First, I’ll get to where the collaborations work. “Drive of Shame” is a fun uptempo track featuring Mick Jagger. The song starts out with the two talking in the studio about the song which is something I’m starting to hear on a number of albums. It’s about a one night stand in Vegas that the guy regrets after the woman kicks him out of the hotel room the next morning. What follows is the walk of shame to his car and the drive of shame afterwards. Mick Jagger adds a coolness to this song and he isn’t simply a name on the track he actually has his own lines.

Another collaboration that stands out is “Love and War” which shines the light on the issue of the way that we treat our veterans. They go off to war and when they come home they are forgotten. This song in particular follows the story of a man who went to fight in Afghanistan and came home with a lost leg. He suffered from PTSD when he got home and he has trouble sleeping because of the nightmares.

“They say all is fair in Love and
But that ain’t true, it’s wrong
They ship you out to die for us
Forget about you when you’re done.”

Although I like the 2 songs as a whole I don’t see any enhancement that Timbaland gives to “Grey Goose Chase” or “Solar Power Girl.” “Grey Goose Chase” is a slightly bluegrass inspired song about trying to get over a girl by drinking away his sorrows. I love the instrumentation on this song (i’m a sucker for the fiddle) and Brad Paisley is an exceptional guitarist of course. “Solar Power Girl” is a cool idea and the song describes a girl leaving home for college. She was raised by her mother after her alcoholic father abandoned her and she needs to get away from home and go where there is sunshine away from the darkness that is her home.

“Dying To See Her” with Bill Anderson is another strong collaboration and describes a man who misses his wife and is literally dying to be reunited with her in heaven one day. She was his reason for living and when she passed away he died soon afterwards. The doctors had no idea why he was dying suddenly but it was clear that she was the reason. It’s an incredibly touching love song.

The two singles from the album thus far are “Today” and “Last Time For Everything.” I tend to agree with most people about the lead single. I think it’s a good song but I don’t think it’s a great song. No doubt this song will be played as the wedding song at a number of weddings. “Last Time For Everything” reminds us that there is a last time for everything in our lives. It’s a song that relates to older people as they can look back and reminisce about the days gone by. As a young person myself it makes me think about cherishing the time that I have when I am young because you don’t know when the things/moments that you take for granted will be over.

My personal favorite track on Love and War is the Johnny Cash Poem turned song “Gold All Over the Ground.” This was originally a poem that was written by Johnny Cash to his wife June and was released to the public in 2016. This is a sweet love song/poem about how if he could he would turn the ground gold for the woman he loves. He would give her everything she wanted and he would do anything for her.

“One Beer Can” and “selfie#theinternetisforever” display Brad’s humorous side. “One Beer Can” is literally about one beer can that is left after a party that a teenager throws at his house when his parents are away. When they see it he gets into huge trouble while nothing happens to his friends who attended the party. The ladder talks about our social media addiction and this selfie culture that we find ourselves in. All those pictures that you are taking of yourself will be on the internet forever and you will probably regret a lot of them.

One of the last tracks on the album is another strong track in my opinion but, I seem to have a different view on what Paisley is trying to get across and that track is “The Devil is Alive and Well.” He is talking about all of the horrible stuff going on in the world and how there is so much pain and anger in the world. He concludes that we can all agree that the devil is alive and well. The confusing part about this is that in the chorus he is reaching out to people that believe in heaven/hell and those who don’t.

“I don’t know
If you believe in Heaven
I don’t know
If you believe in Hell
But I bet we can agree that the devil
Is alive and well
Alive and well.”

So to me I believe that the devil is more of a metaphor than the actual devil himself because if we can all agree whether we believe in those things or not how could the devil be anything except a metaphor in this song?

I enjoyed this album and not just for a mainstream album. The instrumentation on this album really enhances it and as I said before Brad is a hell of a guitar player. But besides the guitar we actually get fiddle and steel guitar on a mainstream country album and we get a bluegrass influenced song which you know I love. I think the album could have been better if they just eliminated songs like “Heaven South,” “Contact High,” and “Go to Bed Early” and I didn’t feel all of the collaborations were necessary. All in all though i’m happy to see Brad Paisley get back to really good music. He was never the problem in the mainstream anyway.

Grade: B- 7.5/10

Best Songs: Dying To See Her, Gold All Over The Ground, Grey Goose Chase

Sam Outlaw Tenderheart Album Review

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Sam Outlaw was recently one of the artists featured in the La Weekly article 10 Lamest Americana Acts. The author Jonny Whiteside referred to Outlaw as a hipster whose music is just as pop country as Rascal Flatts. Now of course if you are actually familiar with Sam Outlaw’s music you would know how ludicrous that comparison is. Hell, by today’s standards I don’t know how you could even classify Outlaw as “pop country” at all. He also took a shot at the fact that Sam Outlaw’s real name is actually not Sam Outlaw it is Sam Morgan. Whiteside tried to claim that Outlaw is misrepresenting what his actual name is to try to seem cool. Well, Outlaw whose mother passed away made the decision to use his mother’s maiden name as a way of honoring her. There have been plenty of artists who have decided to go with different names than their birth name and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a silly criticism and has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of his music.

So who is Sam Outlaw anyway? Well Sam was born in Aberdeen South Dakota where he lived until age 10. His family moved to Southern California where he grew up listening to country legends like Emmylou Harris and George Jones who he lists as an inspiration as a songwriter. Outlaw worked in advertising before deciding to chase his dream of being a country artist at the age of 30. Tenderheart which was released on the 14th is Outlaw’s second album and it’s a good one.

The album begins with two songs right off the bat that I believe are related to Outlaw’s journey from being a successful advertising guy to a country artist. “Everyone’s Looking for Home” starts off the album and is in my opinion the best song on Tenderheart. It describes a person who has left home in search of adventure and a life of his own. He left the love of his life at home and is trying to find himself. He’s looking for a place that he can call home. In my mind Outlaw is describing his divorce and the decision that he made to chase his dream. In “Bottomless Mimosas” Outlaw talks about the way that people can become in regards to work. They live for the weekend and drink their sorrows away when they get there. When the weekend ends the beg for more time and then do it all over again. He also questions the idea of money being freedom when all it is doing is keeping you tied down and unhappy.

Some great storytelling is demonstrated on “Bougainvillea, I Think.” He recalls a neighbor that he used to have many years ago. She was an Argentinian immigrant who spent some time in Mexico before settling in the US. The two of them would sit and talk for hours in this garden with flowers on the wall. He can no longer remember what her name was however he thinks that he can remember the name of the flowers on the wall of that garden. He thinks the name was bougainvillea. I would say this is the second best song on a really good album. In the title track “Tenderheart” we have a man that is sitting in a bar who has lost just about everything in his life. The only thing that he has left is a tenderheart for this woman that he loves. She is the only woman that he has ever truly loved. This song is a bit confusing as I’m not sure if he is actually with this woman or not and we are left wondering what caused this man to lose everything.

A song released prior to the album was “Trouble.” This is a catchy song about a friend who is always getting him into trouble He wants to settle down and find a wife and if he keeps this friend that is unlikely to happen. I may be reaching but I wonder if the “friend” is a metaphor for a particular vice or an actual friend. Like a lot of the album you are left to decide for yourself what the answer is. Throughout the album you can hear some nice steel guitar play and that is heard on “She’s Playing Hard to Get Rid Of.” A woman that he loved never treated him right. She left him feeling lonely for too many nights and his feelings towards her have grown cold. There was a time where he may have asked her to marry him but, that day is gone.

We get a sweet love song to follow the sad song “Two Broken Hearts.” This describes two people in a bar that have had their hearts broken by other people. They find each other after the man works up the courage to talk to her and the broken hearts are never seen again. We are led to believe that the two lived happily ever after and never had to deal with a broken heart again. “Diamond Ring” is a song about a man who refuses to settle down. He is in a relationship and it appears the two love each other and the woman wants him to propose. He however, sees no reason to do this and actually questions what is wrong with her that she would want to spend her whole life with him anyway. It appears as though his failure to propose causes the demise of the relationship.

The next couple songs are rather light hearted with “All My Life” being a bit comedic as well. It is basically a proposal where the man explains to the woman that the two of them could spend their whole lives searching for the right man/woman. He however would like to spend that time with her instead for the rest of his life. “Dry In the Sun” is a very short track on this record clocking in at 1 minute 59 seconds. The song simply talks about clothes drying outside on the line. 1 person is telling the other to just relax and leave the clothes out there on the line. If there is a deeper meaning to this song besides taking it easy it’s flying right over my head.

The album ends with 2 very strong songs. “Now She Tells Me,” which has a Mexican vibe involves a woman who makes it difficult to love. She is always busy, she doesn’t try to make her man happy, and she is always leaving him lonely. The man in this song wishes that she had told him that this is how it would be before he fell for her. She won’t leave him and it appears he doesn’t have the strength to leave her. The album ends with the mostly acoustic and live sounding song “Look at you Now.” This song examines the end of a relationship and the broken heart that ensues. It’s a very sad song and it feels very deep and personal.

I had originally planned to have this review out by Monday however, this took more listens than I had anticipated to really be coherent about it. There were a number of songs where I had missed the meaning originally so I revisited the album about 7 times until I felt I had a good grasp. I really love this album and none of the nonsense about his name or former career is of any relevance to me personally when accessing Sam’s Music.

Grade: A- 9/10

Best Songs:  Everyone’s Looking For Home, Bougainvillea I Think

Canyons of my Mind Andrew Combs Album Review

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Americana singer songwriter Andrew Combs moved to Nashville 11 years ago. Combs grew up in a comfortable middle class home in Dallas Texas and began songwriting at a young age. One quote of Andrew’s that is given on his website speaks to the type of artist that he is as well as the reason his songs sound the way that they do. It starts out with a friend asking him “Ever heard of a happy song?” Combs response to this question was “Tabs on me if you think I’m lying, laughing ain’t a pleasure till you know about crying.” There’s a certain artistic brilliance to the songwriting and storytelling of Andrew Combs. The way he is able to conjure up images and metaphors in his songs is something that should be admired. Plenty of songs on this album can be interpreted in different ways therefore, the conclusions I make in regards to meaning may be different than you get.

The album opens up with what is the most uptempo track on the record “Heart of Wonder.” The music really stands out on this song with a mix of piano, guitar and drums. This is one of the tracks on the album that I think can be open to interpretation and my interpretation is that the man in this song is always searching. He never finds what he is looking for and he is a bit of a free spirit. The transition to the darker songs on the album comes in the next track “Sleep Walker.” After the love of his life leaves him he has trouble sleeping. He sleep walks in search of this woman and there are times where he confuses his dreams with reality. There’s nothing that she can do to help him even if she wanted to unless she was willing to take him back.

“Dirty Rain” is one of the songs on this record that is a commentary of our society the other being “Bourgeois King.” “Where are all the pretty places? Where did they go” Combs sings in “Dirty Rain.” He is talking about the destructive force that mankind has been to the environment. He ponders what future generations of children will say when all they have to play in is dirty rain. With a child on the way for Andrew Combs you would have to think this song would have an even greater meaning to him. “Bourgeois King” is a political statement made about America’s broken politics. Although Donald Trump is referenced with chants to “build a wall to keep out the enemy” and “build a wall to keep us free” the song is about American politics as a whole. With the nastiness and divisiveness that has only gotten worse over the last few years, we have seen more and more of these types of songs get released. The most recent one that I can remember is “This Old Building” from the Infamous Stringdusters.

“Hazel” is a really interesting love song with a tense vibe. The man sings of a woman named Hazel for whom he loves but is not with. She is a lonely girl who to him is beautiful and he describes his desire to be intimate with her. We are given clues that something may be off with her in some way because she is teased and mocked by children but, we aren’t told specifically why. With “Better Way” we get another love song and this one has a vintage sound to Combs’ vocals. Two people who are going through the same thing in life meet and fall in love. They both believe that there must be a better way in life. A life without fake friends and loneliness.

The major theme of this album is the idea of ending relationships and the pain that ensues and we see that in “Rose Colored Blues.” The narrator loses his love and decides to hop on a train and just leave. He doesn’t know where he is going or what he is doing but, it makes it easier to deal with the pain to just get away. In “Lauralee,” we get a different spin on the aftermath of a relationship. Lauralee is the woman that the narrator loved who passes away. The man recalls when she was alive, when the wind would blow in her hair and he would just admire her beauty. Now he feels that she is with him every time the wind blows.

“Silk Flowers” is a metaphor for what the man in this song wants but cannot have. Since his wife left him he finds himself waking up every day with a different woman in his bed. He wants so much to have a real love with his wife again just like the silk flowers wish to be real. He wonders if she ever thinks of him the way that he thinks of her all the time. The album comes to a close with “What it Means to You.” This song describes a mutual ending of a relationship. The two sides realize how great the love that they once shared was but realize that there is no point in trying again to make the relationship work. Sometimes love just slips through your hands and you need to appreciate the time that you had together instead of trying to put back together broken pieces.

I really enjoyed this album but, this album isn’t for everyone. It can be a little bit quiet in tone and organic at a time when so many musicians try to go bigger, louder and super produced. This album gets better with multiple listens and you get something different out of the album the more you listen to it. It makes me want to go farther into his discography of 2 other albums.

Grade: B+ 8.5/10

Best Songs: “Hazel,” “Bourgeois King” and “Dirty Rain”