‘Beyond The Ranch’ is a really intriguing project from new Australian group Saltbush Six, fronted by UK fan favourite and British CMA Male Vocalist Of The Year, Darcy Crawford. The band is made up of The Ayers Rockettes, the musicians who helped launch Keith Urban’s career back in his days with ‘The Ranch’. These guys are masters of their craft and have been in the business long enough to know a good song when they hear one.
The album was produced by the hugely experienced Mark Moffatt, whose production credits include the likes of Keith Urban, Gloriana, Deana Carter and many more high-profile names. Having someone with Mark’s background involved in the project has resulted in a slick, intricate final product which can certainly compete with the best the Australian scene has to offer. They’ve also chosen a collection of songs written by some hugely talented writers, including some familiar names topping the charts in the States right now.
A perfect example of that is ‘You Don’t Know Me Lonely’, the group’s new single, which was written by Chris Janson, Phil Barton and JT Harding, who need no introduction if you have any knowledge of Nashville’s writing community. The powerful chorus adds a real anthemic element, and it stretches Darcy’s vocal capabilities right to the max, but he passes the test! It’ll be one they include in set lists for quite some time; a track that was simply born to be performed live.
‘Live From Our House (Saturday Night)’, the debut single, will be a big fan favourite too. It’s a fun, country-rock banger that fits the band like a glove; it’s exactly what you would imagine the output to be if a group of highly experienced musicians got together for a good old jam session. It’s a really good high-energy opener to the album that’s difficult not to like.
With any debut album, it’s essential to showcase your versatility, and Saltbush Six have attempted that with the grittier, sexier songs like ‘That’s Our Thang’ and ‘Swerve’, which are the real outliers on the album and will raise eyebrows on the first front-to-back listen, particularly the latter. Personally, I prefer the softer, more trad-country options on the album, but these songs are statements of intent to match the kind of output from Music City and ride the current trends, which you can’t knock them for.
One of the strongest tracks on the album for me has to be ‘Some Dust Don’t Settle Down’, a track which was previously recorded by Andrew Hyatt and became a big favourite of ours at YLIAS. Saltbush Six have put their own spin on it, stripping back the dominant drum beats we heard in Hyatt’s recording, creating a much more traditional-country feel and a more atmospheric vibe. Written by Mitchell Tenpenny, Andy Albert and Jordan Schmitt, the quality will come as no surprise to many; it’s one of those underground songs that’s just begging for its big moment in the spotlight.
‘Come On In’ is just as strong and will be the stand-out for listeners leaning to the Kenny Chesney, island side of the genre (even Hemingway gets a mention!). Think ‘Be As You Are’ and ‘Sing Em Good My Friend’ – This is the material that I think will suit Saltbush Six in the long-run and the kind of vibe they can pull off to the best of their ability. Some gorgeous electric guitar in there and lyrically superb; get in the sunshine, close your eyes and let this one wash over you.
‘Matches’ might be a good bet for a future single release. One of the catchiest songs on the album, it’s an amalgamation of country, R&B and soul influences. Good luck getting that “me and you” line out of your head! A flirty, easy-listening addition to the album that works a treat.
All in all, ‘Beyond The Ranch’ is a successful re-introduction to the Ayers Rockettes guys, and it feels like a new lease of life for front man Darcy Crawford, who more than deserves his break. The buzz about these guys at Tamworth Festival earlier this year seemed promising; let’s hope their momentum continues to build.