Hey look kids, another installment of Chris’ Pick Six. Yes I waited until the last minute but still squeezed it in before June expired. Enjoy!
There are few things in this world that you can count on; fortunately for music lovers one of those things is Matt Woods. The Tennessee troubadour writes stories about colorful characters (Snack Bar Mary), personal choices (life on the road) and desolate places (Brushy Mountain) that reach listeners on an emotional level due to the lyrics and Woods’ heartfelt delivery. His latest record, With Love From Brushy Mountain, is a modern day country classic following the lead of such greats as Jones, Haggard and Williams. On the opening track “Ain’t No Living” Woods uses vivid imagery to show life on the road is less than glamorous. Writing sad songs is his specialty and it rings true on “Drinking To Forget” and “Deadman Blues” as both tracks are loaded with enough death, despair and regret for an entire album. The title track, “With Love From Brushy Mountain” is an incredible piece of music as Woods sings about life in prison, without actually telling the listener it is about prison. His story telling prowess is at its best on “Snack Bar Mary and the Ten Pin Priest” as he tells the tale of a dying small town and the people in it. This record from Matt Woods is a brilliant display in songwriting from start to finish. There are no weak spots on Brushy Mountain as Woods allows listeners into his downtrodden world.
With much anticipation and critical acclaim preceding the release of their debut album – All Dies Down – Alabama’s Fire Mountain lives up to all the expectations. Loaded with songs about life, their folk infused rock is as laid back as sitting on a front porch sipping on sweet tea. Smooth melodies and sweet vocal harmonies ease their way into listener’s ears on “At The Seams”, “Doing Fine” and “Anchor Iron”. When needed they can kick things up a notch and rock out with the best of them. On “Wired and Dying” and “Factory Line” killer guitar hooks dominate these Southern rock tunes. The song “Be Your Eyes” highlights the album as it blends everything they do into one song. Mellow guitars invite listeners in before it picks up pace surrounding haunting vocals. The sound they create is so damn good it almost overshadows their lyrics, almost. Using southern imagery and familiar situations the lyrics on All Dies Down are about life and the tough decisions we all have to make as we get older. As much fun as life can be it is the choices people make that molds them into the people they will become. Look to be hearing a lot about this record, it is the total package and a great listen.
You know what you are going to get every time out with veteran Texas rockers Old 97’s, a damn fine batch of tunes. Loaded with rowdy guitars, light hearted lyrics and Rhett Miller’s unmistakable Southern warble the latest edition to their catalog really hits the spot. Most Messed Up delivers 12 tracks about women, sex, bad decisions, dysfunctional relationships and a wealth of other vices told only the way the Old 97’s know how. Women always find their way into the songs and it is not always pleasant as Miller croons about relationships. Listen to the catchy “Guadalajara” which details a fling that the woman thinks is more, “Wheels Off” about a substance aided coupling or the Murray Hammond sung tune about divorce “The Ex All of You See”. It is not all about the ladies, substance abuse (“The Disconnect”), frayed friendships (“Intervention”) and over all clusterfucks (“Most Messed Up”) play equal roles on this record. The quirky “Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On” was made for singing a-long as is the jangly “Wasted”. The best of the bunch has to be the opener “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. The song gets louder and faster as they sing about being out on the road. It is a nice window into the life of a band that has logged a lot of hours together. Most Messed Up is one of the better record these guys have put out. After all these years they still have it and show no sign of slowing down.
Dereconstructed is everything you could ever hope for in a rock and roll record. Lee Bains and crew set the bar high with their debut album, and on the follow up they cleared it by a mile. The opening track – “Company Man” – sets the tone and it just gets better from there. Churning guitars, screaming vocals and ear bursting rhythms are jam packed into each and every tune as they belt out songs about racism, the man, and their beloved south. Dereconstructed lies somewhere between Skynyrd and Black Flag as they sing about their beloved South with a bit of bitterness and anger mixed in to the love and adoration. “The Weeds Downtown” preaches their love of Birmingham while at the same time laying out their frustrations at all that wrong with it. The ear rattling “We Dare Defend Our Rights” has punk rock written all over it as they sing about disillusionment, dissatisfaction and indignation. “The Kudzu and the Concrete” may be the best track on the album as they sing about people being the same. I can’t say enough about this record, it is one of those rare pieces of music that demands to be listened to start to finish.
When you hit play on Sturgill Simpson’s latest album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music , you will surely do a double take because this guy sounds so much like Waylon Jennings. That is where the comparisons end because I am pretty sure I have never heard Waylon sing about Buddha, space turtles or voices in his head. Simpson music is built around classic country sounds as he sings about spiritual enlightenment, and reflects on life without getting preachy. On “Life of Sin” he sings about drinking, smoking and carousing not showing remorse but thanking God for offering up these choices. The psychedelic country rocker “It Ain’t All the Flowers” tackles personal demons before exploding into a bad ass conglomeration of music and noise while the twangy “Long White Line” is about ditching his life and making changes. On “The Promise”, he transforms When In Rome’s 80’s pop tune into a haunting country ballad that is so much better than the original. The opening song, “Turtles All the Way Down” sums up this record as a whole. Whether it is Jesus, Buddha or alien Turtles having something to put your faith in can make a difference. If you want to hear country music about butt shaking, driving a truck or loaded with hip hop then keep tuned to the radio if you want to listen to something good then listen to Sturgill Simpson.
English Oceans marks the first album from Georgia/Alabama band Drive-By Truckers (DBT) since long time members Shonna Tucker (bass) and John Neff (guitar) have departed. To begin the new DBT era front men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have re-loaded and deliver an in your face rocker that harkens back to their earlier sound. While the last couple of records had featured more of a “Muscle Shoals” soul vibe with the Southern rock in the background, English Oceans is quite the opposite. Cooley and Hood trade songs with the cool hand guitar slinger really stepping up and delivering some of the best tunes on the album. Cooley reaches into his bag of tricks dishing out tunes about people that don’t necessarily have anything special about them, but his colorful lyrics make them relevant. Hood’s songs offer a bit more soul as he sings about folks going through tough times and life changing predicaments. Death, loss, heart break find their way into the music which is something he has always excelled in. Maybe it was the time apart or the addition of new blood is the reason, I don’t know, but this is one of the best DBT albums in the last few years.