The 4th studio album from The Josh Abbott Band is unusual in that it deals entirely with the relationship lead man Abbott had with his wife or more accurately his ex wife. It’s a concept album in the true sense with a beginning (act 1), an end (act 5) and everything in between.
The album therefore deals with meeting, falling in love, getting married, break-up and the inevitable divorce. Plenty of material for a country song!
3 songs are included in each act apart from Act 5 and as you would expect the album develops from up-beat, care-free songs to the final act that catalogues the break up and aftermath. A very personal experience for Abbott who has lived through these various emotions.
So that’s the background. What do we actually get musically?
We get a very good country album which relies heavily upon fiddle and banjos and doesn’t stray too far from a band that learnt their craft in the Texas music scene.
Act 1 begins with “While I’m Young” which opens the ‘happy and care-free’ stage. Fiddles and banjo’s and plenty of orchestrated clapping. The mood continues with “I’ve Been Known”, a foot tapper and a traditionally Texas feel. We conclude this chapter with “Live It While You Got It”, which relies more upon pounding electric guitars but retains the optimistic feel and tells a true story of skinny dipping in Texas fountains.
Act 2 features a duet with Carly Pearce “Wasn’t That Drunk”. By this stage the love affair is developing. Abbott states that he wrote this song with the intention that it would be performed by another artist and had Lady Antebellum in mind. It seems like a future single release.
We continue with “If It Makes You Feel Good” and “Kiss You Good”. Both describing the highs of a happy relationship.
Act 3 arrives with “Crazy things”, an acoustic melody which is very emotional and raw. The banjo and fiddle again takes centre stage creating a high point at the midpoint of the album.
Happiness abounds in “Front Row Seat”. A true love song and a reminder of happier times. This was obviously a very personal song for Abbott and one can understand why he chose it to front the album.
Act 3 concludes with the “Kisses We Steal” an upbeat sing-a-long fiddle-driven song maintaining the mood.
The high spot in Abbott’s relationship and the mood to the album changes at the beginning of Act 4 “Born To Break Your Heart”, a mellow, moody confession that all is not well. It might have signified the end of the relationship but for me it’s a stand out track. A gentle acoustic guitar introduction leads to a tale which is superbly written and performed, and the excellent backing features a slide guitar and harmonies.
“Ghosts”, with its deep introduction and moody rhythm deals with the separation. Abbott described the pain that he felt when recording it – “I just broke down, by the third chorus I could barely sing”.
“This Isn’t Easy” (Her Song) ends the break-up chapter of the album. Twangy banjos and fiddles are forefront in the mix adding to the melancholy.
The final act deals with the aftermath and starts with “A Loss Of Memory”, essentially the lead into the bands first single release from the album, “Amnesia”. This song is co written by Shane McAnally and Josh Osbourne and has hit record written all over it. It’s totally untypical of the type of music expected from a Texas Country band but works perfectly and demonstrates the band’s obvious versatility.
We return to more traditional ground with “Autumn”. The mood has lifted and the banjos return for a song that describes the parting of the ways and a mutual acceptance that parties move on.
The final track of this very impressive album is “Anonymity”, a slow acoustic guitar-strumming builder that, apart from a solo fiddle backing, features Abbott bringing matters to a conclusion alone.
It will be interesting to see how the band performs the album live on their US tour. Do they perform it as it appears here or mix and match?
They are a band who are not afraid to push the boundaries and this has not always been to their commercial advantage. They have parted ways with Atlantic Records due to “creative” difficulties but the result is an album that will be very well received and should hopefully bring commercial success.
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